IBTimes UK has spoken with Frank Habineza, leader of Rwanda's opposition Democratic Green Party (DGPR), on the 2017 election and a possible constitutional amendment to allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.
The Rwandan parliament backed a proposal to change Article 101 of the constitution after some 3.7 million Rwandans are believed to have signed a petition calling for a third term for Kagame. The leader has been president of Rwanda since 2001 and, at present, is bound by the constitution to step down after serving two consecutive seven-year-long terms.
The DGPR said it is against any amendment of the constitution. The party filed a lawsuit demanding Rwanda's Supreme Court halt any amendment, arguing the move is against democracy. The party also pointed out Article 193 – concerning amendments of the constitution – does not allow the number of terms to be changed, but only their lengths. The court backed the parliament's proposal to amend the constitution, though.
Earlier in 2015, the senate approved a constitutional amendment draft that reduces presidential terms from seven to five years and, although maintaining the two-term limit, makes an exception for Kagame, who can potentially run in 2017.
Kagame said he will make a decision on the future of his political career after a referendum scheduled on 18 December, in which Rwandans will decided whether to accept or reject the proposed amendments. Should voters approve the constitutional changes, Kagame could be re-elected in 2017 and stay in power for two more five-year terms.