In the last years of Belgian administration many political organizations were formed. In March 1957, Grégoire Kayibanda and other young Hutu leaders issued a public manifesto demanding a continuation of Belgian rule until the Hutu were better prepared to assume a role in political affairs. In June 1957, they formed the Hutu Social Movement, which, in 1959, became the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (Parti du Mouvement de l'Emancipation Hutu—Parmehutu). Parmehutu thereupon set a policy of ending Tutsi rule and abolishing the feudal system.
The Rwanda National Union Party (Union Nationale Rwandaise—UNAR), founded in September 1959 by Prosper Bwanakweli and backed by the mwami, was the leading monarchist party, calling for immediate self-government and independence under a hereditary (Tutsi) constitutional monarchy.
In the 1961 elections, Parmehutu received 77.7% of the votes cast; UNAR won 16.8%, and other minority parties 5.5%. Under a system of proportional representation, 35 of the 44 seats in the National Assembly went to Parmehutu. Parmehutu extended its control in the 1969 elections, and thereafter became the only political party in Rwanda until its disbanding by the military in 1973.
In 1975, President Habyarimana founded and became party president of the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (Mouvement Révolutionnaire Nationale pour le Développement—MRND), which became the nation's only legal party. Party membership is automatic at birth. The president of the MRND was the sole candidate in national presidential elections and appointed the party's secretary-general and central committee. In December 1981, the 64 deputies to the National Development Council were elected from 128 candidates chosen by the MRND. In the elections of December 1983, 140 MRND candidates vied for 70 seats in an enlarged Council; 17 former deputies were defeated.
In November 1990, the president announced that opposition political parties would be permitted to organize in 1991. Several new parties emerged, including the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), the Liberal Party (LP), the Democratic and Socialist Party (PSD), and the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR). The latter, headed by Martin Bucyana, was charged with provoking the 1994 massacres.
Cracks within the Tutsi-based Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the Transitional National Assembly and government of unity widened following corruption probes and political and ethnic infighting.
Following President Bizimungu's resignation, Kagame was overwhelmingly elected president on 17 April 2000 during a special joint session of parliament and the cabinet receiving 81 of a possible 86 votes. Under the Arusha peace accord, the number of seats by party in the transitional government was predetermined and shared by eight parties: FPR 13, Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), 13; Democratic and Socialist Party (PSD), 13; Liberal Party (PL), 13; Christian Democrats (PDC), 6; RPA 6; Rwandan Socialist Party (PSR), 2; Islamic Democrats (PDI), 2; and others, 2.
Elections were scheduled for August and September 2003, and in July 2003 the government announced that it recognized only two political parties that had registered with the Ministry of Local Government—the Rwandan Patriotic Front of President Paul Kagame, and the Parti Liberal. Opposition leaders were calling for the elections to be postponed to give them more time to organize.