(AFP) – Sep 15, 2008
KIGALI (AFP) — Rwandan President Paul Kagame was confident of victory as voters went to the polls Monday for parliamentary elections contested only by movements allied to the ruling party.
"I have no reason not to be confident," he told reporters as he cast his ballot in the central African nation's second legislative poll since the 1994 genocide.
Hundreds of voters turned up to cast their ballots in the polls that opened at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) and closed 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) without disruptions.
Electoral Commission chief Chrysologue Karangwa said initial results of the polls, whose outcome are a foregone conclusion as no opposition party challenged Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), would begin trickling in Tuesday.
Only one independent candidate entered the fray, while the two other parties to field candidates in the polls which end Thursday are the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.
Both backed Kagame in the 2003 presidential poll, which saw him re-elected with 95 percent of the vote.
The opposition in the small central African country is made up of about a dozen parties which have been in exile since the end of the genocide and did not field candidates.
Rwanda has been praised for its economic reforms since the genocide of minority Tutsis by majority Hutus ended in Kagame, a Tutsi, taking power and is attracting growing foreign investment.
"I think those achievements will be speaking by themselves," Kagame said after casting his ballot in the central Kigali district of Nyarugenge.
"The Rwandese and parties should work together, I think they have a common goal. In the end, they have to work together for national development," he added.
In 2003, for the first parliamentary elections held in Rwanda since the genocide in which 800,000 people were massacred, the RPF secured 74 percent of the vote.
Scepticism towards the ruling elite and the entire political arena remains rife nevertheless.
"As voters, today is our day, but just wait until they are ensconced in their parliamentary seats because they will soon forget about us," said Gerard, a young moto-taxi driver in Kigali.
The United Democratic Forces, a coalition of Brussels-based opposition movements, lambasted 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.
The Rwandan legislative ballot consists of several separate stages.
It kicked off on Monday with the direct election of 53 lawmakers.
The 27 remaining parliament seats will be allocated through indirect elections Tuesday through Thursday, with 24 seats reserved for women, two for youth representatives and one for a representative of the disabled.
This hybrid electoral system makes Rwanda one of the few countries in the world with a gender equal parliament. In the outgoing house, 48 percent 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.
According to the electoral commission, women account for 55 percent of the 4.7 million registered voters.
No incidents were reported during the first hours of voting and Johan Van Hecke, a member of the European Union's observation mission, gave a thumbs-up to what he described as a "very organised" election.
Provisional results are expected on September 22 and final results three days later, the electoral commission said. Provisional results from the first day of voting could be released as early as Tuesday.
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