Rwanda's ruling party heads for easy poll win: early results

KIGALI Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:41pm EDT

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame casts his vote during a parliamentary election in the capital Kigali September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jenny Clover

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame casts his vote during a parliamentary election in the capital Kigali September 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jenny Clover

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KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda's ruling party was cruising to a widely expected landslide win in parliamentary elections on Tuesday, early results showed, reinforcing President Paul Kagame's firm grip on power.

The National Electoral Commission said Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had won 76 percent of the vote with three quarters of ballots counted.

Under Kagame's leadership, the east African country has become a favorite with foreign investors. The order book for Rwanda's debut eurobond in April was 8.5 times the $400 million sought, underlining steady economic growth.

But Kagame's opponents have accused him of cracking down on political opponents and restricting press freedoms - allegations he dismisses.

Some Rwandans said turnout was low in their constituencies.

"People felt like there was no point voting, the RPF was going to win," said one man from eastern Rwanda, withholding his name, a common occurrence in a country where many feel scared to talk out against the authorities.

Others said that although the result was predictable, the process had been free and fair.

"We can choose whoever we want to vote for," said Claudette, a 30-year-old teacher from Kigali.

Pro-government newspapers have published a number of articles in recent months raising the prospect of Kagame running for a third term in 2017, a move that would require the next assembly to change the constitution to extend term limits.

Kagame, a bush fighter-turned-statesman widely lauded for transforming Rwanda's economy after the 1994 genocide, has so far sidestepped questions on the issue.

The Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party, both officially designated opposition parties, polled 13 percent and 9.4 percent respectively, initial results showed. Both the parties have ministers in a unity government, underlining the lack of real opposition.

"The opposition parties do what the RPF tell them to do," said a student from Kigali who did not give his name.

Voters cast their ballots on Monday for 53 directly elected seats. A further 27 seats are reserved for women, youths and disabled representatives who are being indirectly elected on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those candidates are not aligned to specific parties.

(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

(This story was refiled to to clarify PSD and PL have ministers in cabinet in the eleventh paragraph)

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