The internal political situation in Rwanda continues to be shaped by the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. After the genocide and the military victory, the ” Rwandan Patriotic Front ” (RPF) formed a coalition government on July 19, 1994. Pasteur Bizimungu was appointed president. This was followed by a transition phase with transitional governments based on the Arusha Treaty, which lasted until 2003. Since then, institutions have been formed and numerous reforms have been carried out. One of the most important reforms is the government’s long-term decentralization program, which can also be described as a step towards political democratization. According to computergees, local elections and the shifting of competencies to lower levels made the population increasingly involved in political decision-making processes.
Another focus of government policy is the fight against corruption. As part of a radical policy of “zero tolerance”, Rwanda’s president regularly sends clear signals, even to the country’s elite. An example of spectacular arrests of this kind was the case of the powerful banker Alfred Kalisa in 2007, a new example is the arrest of Angelique Kantegwa in mid-2014, who had previously been an influential chief executive of the state social security authority.
We owe the success of the last few years to newly created institutions, such as the office of the ombudsman or the police hotline for citizens’ complaints about corruption cases. In the data collection of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International, Rwanda ranks 53rd out of 180 countries examined. Rwanda cites the corresponding regional comparison.
Political organizations were banned until 2003. Accordingly, the first post-war elections for parliament and the presidency did not take place until August and September 2003. The dominant party, the RPF, emerged from these elections with an overwhelming majority (73%). The RPF candidate and incumbent President Kagame got over 95% of the vote. In particular, the election campaign was neither free nor fair.
At 48%, the proportion of women in parliament was equally overwhelming and exceeded the minimum quota of 30% prescribed by the constitution. This resulted from the specially designed voting system. In parallel to direct elections with candidates from party lists, indirect elections of women take place through separate bodies.
Since then, the parliament in Rwanda has consisted of two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies with 80 seats and the Senate with 26 seats. Acting president and thus head of state since April 2000 is Paul Kagame (FPR). He installs the head of government and his ministers. The president is elected directly by the people every 7 years.
The last parliamentary elections were instead to the new political beginning in 1994, for the third time on schedule in September, 2013. The elections to the second chamber, consisting of 26 senators, had taken place two years earlier in September 2011.
410 candidates ran for the 80 seats in the House of Representatives. A total of 10 parties and individual independent candidates stood, with 6 small parties joining the alliance of the dominant ruling party RPF. Two new parties were admitted in the run-up to the elections. For the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), however, the official approval did not come until the beginning of August 2013 and thus too late for a timely compilation of the list of candidates.
As expected, the election result confirmed the old balance of power. The ruling party RPF clearly won the elections with 76.2% of the vote. Compared to the previous election in 2008 (78.6%), however, this means a slight loss.
The quota of women has again risen sensationally from 56 to 64 percent. Thus, Rwanda remains the first and only country in the world whose parliament is made up of women.
6 million out of approximately 10.5 million Rwandans were eligible to vote. Even though voting is not compulsory in Rwanda, the turnout was extremely high at 98%. This is largely due to the prevailing pressure to participate in collective social processes.
The last presidential elections took place on August 4, 2017 as planned (almost exactly to the day after seven years in office). With the official final result of 98.79%, the incumbent President Kagame was confirmed in office for the third time. There was no doubt about the outcome of these presidential elections in advance. The only observations that can be recorded are the nationwide peaceful mood at the polls and the almost 100 percent turnout.
The very high election result for President Paul Kagame was largely unquestioned. The real question is the extraordinary election campaign. In doing so, the president and his ruling party RPF demonstrated their overwhelming superiority. With a large entourage, Kagame held election campaign events with the character of a festival in all 30 districts of the country. All events outbid each other with record numbers of participating supporters. In contrast, the two other candidates could only gather a modest crowd around them.
The next presidential election is expected after a seven-year legislative period in 2024.