The present constitution came into force in June 2003, with the principal aim of promoting national unity and protecting personal liberties and human rights.
The executive President is the head of state and commander-in- chief of the armed forces, and is elected by universal adult suffrage for a seven-year term; he or she may serve a maximum of two terms. The President nominates the Prime Minister and appoints the council of ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The bicameral legislature comprises the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, 53 directly elected every five years by universal adult suffrage and 27 representing: women (24 seats), youth (two) and disabled people (one). The Senate has 26 members, who serve for eight years; 12 represent the provincial government councils, and two represent academic institutions. The other members are nominated, eight by the President and four the Parties’ Forum.
In April 2000 President Pasteur Bizimungu was succeeded by Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leader Paul Kagame. Following endorsement of a new constitution by referendum in May 2003, Kagame won the presidential election in August 2003, with 95 per cent of votes, and the RPF won the country’s first multiparty parliamentary elections in September 2003, with 40 of the 53 directly elected seats and 74 per cent of votes. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) took seven seats and the Liberal Party six; turnout was 96 per cent. Former President Bizimungu received a 15-year jail sentence for embezzlement and inciting violence in June 2004; he was released in April 2007 when he received a presidential pardon.
When in November 2006 a French judge issued an international arrest warrant for Kagame, alleging that the RPF was responsible for shooting down the plane carrying former President Juvénal Habyarimana in April 1994, Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations with France. In October 2007 the Rwandan Government set up an inquiry into the plane crash that had sparked the genocide, which concluded in late 2009 that Habyarimana’s own army had been responsible. In August 2008 Rwanda released a report naming more than 30 senior French officials alleged to have been involved in the 1994 genocide. Rwanda and France resumed diplomatic relations in November 2009.
In the parliamentary elections of September 2008 the RPF was returned taking 42 seats and 79 per cent of votes cast; the SDP won seven seats and the Liberal Party four. Turnout was again close to 100 per cent.
In the presidential election of August 2010, when 99 per cent of the electorate voted, Kagame won a resounding victory, receiving 93.1 per cent of the votes cast. His main rival, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the SDP, secured 5.1 per cent.
The RPF was returned with a strong mandate in the parliamentary elections of 16 September 2013, gaining 41 elective seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with 76 per cent of votes cast. The SDP took seven seats and the Liberal Party five. Turnout was again 99 per cent.