Rwandan legislators have voted in support of a referendum that will allow President Paul Kagame a third term in power, backing a petition signed by millions of citizens.
“I want to thank all members of parliament for showing support to the people’s wishes,” Speaker of Parliament Donatilla Mukabalisa said, after both the lower and upper houses voted in the first step of the process for constitutional change.
The Rwandan constitution, adopted in 2003, limits the number of presidential terms to two, and therefore bars Kagame — elected first in 2003 and again in 2010 — to stand for a third term.
According to parliament speaker Donatilla Mukabalisa, petitions signed by a total of two million people — or roughly 17 per cent of the population — have demanded that Kagame be allowed to stay in office.
The debate on the third term calling for the removal of Article 101 has been largely one-sided, calling on parliament to endorse the processes to amend the Constitution.
Any change to the constitution would require a vote in support by at least three-quarters of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum.
President Kagame is serving his last official term as specified by the Constitution. The Rwandan leader recently said that he is open to going or remaining based on what Rwandans decide ahead of 2017.