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September 4, 2018 | Rwanda

Ruling party to sweep Rwanda parliament poll

AFP
Rwanda President Paul Kagame was widely expected to win parliment elections.  By MADOKA IKEGAMI (POOL/AFP)
Rwanda President Paul Kagame was widely expected to win parliment elections. By MADOKA IKEGAMI (POOL/AFP)

Rwanda's ruling party was set to win three-quarters of directly elected parliamentary seats in this week's poll, provisional results showed Tuesday.

Long-time ruler President Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and its seven smaller allied parties, had 75 percent of the votes after Monday's election, with 70 percent of ballots counted.

Final results are not due until 16 September.

Parties were vying for 53 of the country's 80 directly elected parliamentary seats of which 24 are reserved for women, two for youth and one for the disabled, all chosen by special councils and national committees.

Instead of voting for individual lawmakers, Rwandans vote for a party which then decides the candidates to enter parliament.

To win at least one seat, a party has to get at least five percent of the total votes cast.

Once again the country's only critical opposition, the Green Party, appeared unlikely to win a single parliamentary seat after taking just 4.5 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Green Party leader Frank Habineza won only 0.45 percent of the vote in last year's presidential election, won by Kagame with 99 percent.

Another opposition aspirant, Diane Rwigara, was blocked from contesting that presidential election before being arrested and charged with treason.

Nearly all of Rwanda's seven million registered voters took part in Monday's legislative vote, according to the National Election Commission.

The projected 75 percent for the RPF would represent a slight decline since the last parliamentary poll five years ago, but still guarantees the ruling party's dominance.

Despite winning widespread praise for the high level of female representation in Rwanda's parliament, the legislature does not challenge Kagame, preferring to act as a rubber stamp for his initiatives.

Three years ago parliament unanimously approved a plan to hold a constitutional referendum that changed presidential term limits, clearing the way for Kagame to stay in power until 2034.

The outgoing parliament has also approved harsh prison terms for journalists publishing cartoons deemed "embarrassing to government authorities".

Kagame has been the de-facto leader of Rwanda since 1994 when, as a 36-year-old, his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people -- mainly minority Tutsis -- and seized Kigali.

Kagame is hailed for his role in halting the genocide and turning around Rwanda's economy but criticised for his iron-fisted rule with rights groups regularly accusing him of ruling through fear and crushing free speech.

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