The ruling party of Rwandan President Paul Kagame is headed for a widely-predicted landslide win in parliamentary elections, officials have said.
Rwanda’s National Election Commission on Tuesday said the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has dominated the central African nation since ending the genocide nearly 20 years ago, has scored 76 percent of the vote with three-quarters of the ballots counted.
Analysts said the RPF faced no serious opposition in Monday’s poll, with only a handful of small parties or independent candidates hoping to scrape a few seats in parliament, and prominent opposition figures sidelined.
Out of the 80 seats in parliament, 53 are directly elected. The remaining 27 are reserved for women, the youth and handicapped, and will be indirectly appointed by local and national councils on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This configuration has ensured that Rwanda has the only parliament in the world where women are in a majority – 56.3 percent after the last elections.
At the school where Kagame cast his vote security was tight, with a sniffer dog on hand to inspect bags and security checks for voters going through a metal-detector gate and an x-ray machine set up specially for the occasion.
Asked whether he expected the RPF to win comfortably, Kagame said: “I guess so. I don’t see any reason why the RPF should not win with a big margin.”
Questioned about accusations of political repression in Rwanda, Kagame retorted: “Is that what you see around you in the voting? You have eyes. Use them to see what is happening and you’ll get the answer.”
Voting was marked by orderly lines outside booths draped in the sky blue, green and yellow of the Rwandan flag, with some playing music.
should not win with a big margin.”]
Cars with loudspeakers cruised the pristine streets of the capital, neatly lined with palm trees, reminding voters not to forget their ID cards.
This relative calmness was despite the explosion of two grenades that killed two people over the weekend in a market in Kigali, a city reputed to be among Africa’s safest.
The Rwandan government blamed dissidents linked to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group operating from across the border in Democratic Republic of Congo.
The FDLR includes remnants of Hutu militia who carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda but who were pushed out by Kagame’s RPF, at the time a rebel army.
With Rwanda’s economy one of the continent’s fastest growing, the government is keen to show off the elections as a badge of national unity and democratic health.
The small nation was left in ruins by the brutal genocide of 1994, in which close to a million people, mostly from the ethnic Tutsi minority, were butchered by Hutu fighters before RPF rebels managed to take control of the country.
Rwanda has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past two decades, with robust economic growth and the strangling of corruption credited to the strong rule of Kagame.
Critics say the economic growth and security have come at the expense of freedom of expression.