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The Effects of Electoral Institutions in Rwanda: Why Proportional Representation Supports the Authoritarian Regime

  • Design
  • Law
  • Political Science


While much has been written about the special design of Rwanda’s judiciary in order to handle the aftermath of the genocide in 1994, other institutional actions resulting from the 2003 constitution have rarely been addressed in research. However, the second (partial) par-liamentary elections in September 2008 revealed some of the implications which the care-fully designed electoral system has for Rwanda’s political development. As a starting point, the paper emphasises the need to link the debates on institutional design in divided societies with elections in authoritarian regimes. Under different regime types, “institutional engi-neers” may pursue different goals. The paper concludes that in the case of Rwanda propor-tional representation (PR) has been implemented to support undemocratic goals. PR limits the local accountability of politicians in a political environment in which the government is not controlled by a democratic opposition. Thus, Rwanda’s current PR system facilitates the maintenance of authoritarian power in the country, whereas small constituencies would es-tablish closer links between the local populations and their representatives.

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