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Kagame party set for Rwanda election landslide

Rwanda's president Paul Kagame votes at a polling station in the capital Kigali on September 16, 2013
Rwanda's president Paul Kagame drops his vote into a ballot box at a polling station in the capital Kigali on September 16, 2013 as parliamentary elections kicked off. The ruling party of President Kagame was headed for a widely-predicted landslide win in

The ruling party of Rwandan President Paul Kagame was headed for a widely-predicted landslide win in parliamentary elections, officials said Tuesday, cementing its nearly two-decade-old grip over the central African nation.

The National Election Commission said the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has run the country since ending the genocide nearly 20 years ago, had won 76 percent of the vote with three-quarters of the ballots from Monday's polls counted.

The RPF faced no serious opposition, with only a handful of small parties or independent candidates hoping to scrape a few seats in parliament, and prominent opposition figures sidelined.

"We can safely say that there will be no major change in the results," the NEC's president, Kalisa Mbanda, told AFP.

He said the independent Social Democrats and Liberals were scoring 13 and 9.4 percent respectively, while the PS-Imberakuri party -- whose former leader Bernard Ntaganda was jailed in 2010 for crimes against state security and "sectarianism" -- had failed to muster even one percent.

Rwanda's Green Party won official recognition last month but chose not to field candidates as it said it did not have time to prepare.

Another large opposition group, the Unified Democratic Forces, is not recognised. It was set up in exile and is led by Victoire Ingabire, who is currently appealing an April conviction for conspiracy and minimising the extent of the 1994 genocide. The group has said the elections have "no legitimacy".

Voters queue outside a polling station in the Rwandan capital Kigali on September 16, 2013
Voters queue outside a polling station in the Rwandan capital Kigali on September 16, 2013. The ruling party of Rwandan President Paul Kagame is headed for a widely-predicted landslide win in parliamentary elections, officials said Tuesday.

Attention is now likely to shift to President Kagame himself, who under the constitution can only serve two terms as president. Kagame is already into his second mandate and the next presidential elections are due in 2017, although there is already speculation over whether he may try to prolong his stay in office beyond that date.

With Rwanda's economy one of the continent's fastest growing, the government has been keen to show off the elections as a display of national unity and political health.

The small nation was left in ruins by the genocide of 1994, in which close to a million people, mostly from the ethnic Tutsi minority, were butchered by Hutu extremists.

The country has been transformed in the past two decades, with powerful economic growth, a booming private sector, the strangling of corruption and low crime rates credited to the strong rule of Kagame. The World Bank now ranks the country as among the best places in Africa to do business.

Rwandan Green Party leader Frank Habineza said the RPF's win was no surprise.

"We expect that the ruling party will win comfortably... because it has no challengers, there is no opposition," Habineza said.

Out of the 80 seats up for grabs, 53 are directly elected and 27 are reserved for women, the youth and handicapped -- who are indirectly elected by local and national councils on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This configuration has ensured that Rwanda has the only parliament where women are in a majority -- 56.3 percent after the last elections.

Kagame's RPF currently held 42 out of the 53 directly elected seats in the last parliament, while deputies holding the indirectly elected seats, although in principle non-partisan, have been supportive of the majority.

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