Rwanda: Four Key Proposed Changes in Electoral Commission Bill

A new draft law governing the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that provides its commissioners shall work on a permanent basis for better results, is awaiting parliamentary approval after the Lower Chamber of Parliament adopted its relevance on March 14.

The National Electoral Commission – referred to as the Commission throughout the bill – was established in 2000 by the law of November 28, 2000, relating to the organisation and functioning of the National Electoral Commission.

This law was later abrogated by the law of December 24, 2005, which has been amended and complemented twice – first in 2010, and second in 2013, according to an explanatory note of the bill.

The explanatory note indicated that an analysis of the existing law – of 2005 as modified and complemented to date – found that it has problems that can be solved through a new bill for NEC to better carry out its mission.

Here are four key changes proposed in the new bill, which seek to solve the identified issues.

Electoral commissioners to work on permanent basis

According to the current law, the Council of Commissioners was composed of seven members who were working on a non-permanent basis, except two months before the polling date when they had to serve the commission on a permanent basis for a smooth monitoring of the electoral process.

The current work schedule for commissioners on a part-time basis does not facilitate them to carry out their duties in a proper manner when preparing and conducting elections, as well as preparing and providing electoral civic education, according to the explanatory note of the bill.

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As things stand now, the commissioners are either self-employed or work for others.

“It is not easy for a self-employed commissioner to stop their activities for such a long time, nor is it easy for a commissioner working for others to get permission for such a long period,” the explanatory note reads in part.

This is why the draft law provides that commissioners shall work on a permanent basis so that they can well accomplish their mission in general, since the electoral cycle term has been reduced, thus, making the electoral process very tight as far as election periods are concerned, it indicated.

Elaborating on the need for the change, it indicated that the presidential elections which used to be conducted every seven years shall be conducted every five years, while the elections of senators which used to be conducted every eight years shall be conducted every five years and will be carried out almost in the same electoral period of the City of Kigali leaders.

This is a result of a change in terms of office for the president and senators – as provided by the constitution.

The bill maintained the number of commissioners – seven including the chairperson and the deputy chairperson. However, it provides also that a Presidential Order may increase or reduce the number of commissioners.

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Commission responsibilities to be expanded

Under the bill, specific responsibilities of the Commission have been broadened by adding responsibilities that were not included in the previous.

They are; preparing and updating the voters’ register, preparing and announcing the electoral calendar, receiving examining and approving candidacies, resolving election-related disputes, except those expected to be resolved by competent courts, and carrying out election-related research to ensure good preparation and conducting of elections, as well as collaborating with national and foreign organs that participate in the elections.

The responsibilities of the Bureau of the Commission have been broadened by adding a responsibility related to monitoring the activities of the Executive Secretariat of the Commission and the implementation of decisions of the Council of the Commission.

Also, the responsibilities of the president of the Commission have been broadened by adding responsibilities related to representing the commission within and outside the country, serving as a spokesperson of the Commission, and submitting the action plan and activity reports and even general election reports to relevant institutions.