Rwanda's opposition is made up of about a dozen parties which have been in exile since the end of the genocide and did not field candidates.

Lack of opposition

Their absence leaves the result of this week's vote a foregone conclusion with the RPF, dominated by the country's Tutsi minority, poised to win a comfortable majority.

"I can tell you that I have no doubt the RPF will comfortably win the coming elections," Kagame said in July.

The United Democratic Forces (UDF), a coalition of Brussels-based opposition movements, criticised the poll.

"The UDF are of the view that so long as one political party, the RPF, monopolises all the state machinery, decides which party or individual can contest elections, seals off all the country during the electoral process, elections will amount to a smoke screen," it said in a statement last month.

In 2003, for the first parliamentary elections held in Rwanda since the genocide, the RPF secured 74 per cent of the vote.

Gender equality

The Rwandan legislative ballot consists of several separate  stages and is expected to conclude on Thursday.

The elections are for 53 parliamentary seats out of 80.

The remaining 27 will be allocated through indirect elections on September 16-18, with 24 seats reserved for women, two for youth representatives and one for a representative of the disabled.

This hybrid electoral system has made Rwanda one of the only countries in the world with a near gender-equal parliament - in the outgoing house, 48 per cent of the members are women.

The proportion of women in politics is also a result of the imbalance in the country's population - so many men having been killed in the genocide and others having fled.