Kagame in confortable early lead in Rwanda election

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President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) is leading in the Rwanda’s parliamentary polls. The first partial results in the capital showed the RPF coalition leading by a wide margin.

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

Paul KagameOut of the 80 seats in parliament, 53 are directly elected. The remaining 27 are reserved for women, the youth and handicapped, and will be indirectly appointed by local and national councils on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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

At the school where Kagame cast his vote security was tight, with a sniffer dog on hand to inspect bags and security checks for voters going through a metal-detector gate and an x-ray machine set up specially for the occasion.

Voting was marked by orderly lines outside booths draped in the sky blue, green and yellow of the Rwandan flag, with some playing music.

Cars with loudspeakers cruised the pristine streets of the capital, neatly lined with palm trees, reminding voters not to forget their ID cards.

The Rwandan government blamed dissidents linked to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group operating from across the border in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past two decades, with robust economic growth and the strangling of corruption credited to the strong rule of Kagame.

Critics say the economic growth and security have come at the expense of freedom of expression.

Transparency International ranks Rwanda as the least corrupt country in Africa, while the World Bank’s ease of doing business index for 2013 ranked Rwanda 52nd out of 185 countries, and third best in sub-Saharan Africa

Kagame’s 2003 win came with an overwhelming 93 percent of votes, and his RPF won 42 out of the 53 directly elected seats in the last election, while deputies holding the indirectly elected seats, although in principle non-partisan, have been supportive of the majority.

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