KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — President Paul Kagame's ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party has won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections, an election official said.
The election was free and fair, the head of the Rwandan Electoral Commission Kalisa Mbanda said late Tuesday, even though human right groups said opposition parties not allied to the Kagame's RPF did not have fair conditions.
The RPF won 40 of the 53 seats open to political parties. Rwanda's lower house has 80 members but 27 seats are reserved for women, people with disabilities and the youth. Monday's elections were Rwanda's third legislative polls since the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of more than 500, 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory in Rwanda in 1994, ending the genocide and since then the RPF has dominated politics in Rwanda.
Human Rights Watch said ahead of Monday's vote, the outcome was "known before the polls." Rwanda has received international praise for the economic progress it has made since its genocide. But it also receives international criticism for a lack of free political space. The country has yet to see a flourishing opposition party, and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International warn that Kagame's government is increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices.
The Democratic Green Party was legally recognized by the government for the first time on August 2nd after a four-year effort. The leader of the Green party, Frank Habineza, said last month that his party had too little time to organize for the parliamentary elections.
Rwanda passed a law this year barring political parties from receiving external support from donors. The Green Party and others like the unregistered Unified Democratic Forces, a party led by the jailed Victoire Ingabire, will no longer be allowed to take funds from outside the country.
Habineza said the law will make it difficult for other parties to compete with RPF, which has held a firm grip on power for the last 19 years. He said Kagame's party also dominates the country's private sector and government tendering processes.