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Kagame’s ruling RPF awaits landslide as Rwanda votes

Rwandans have been voting in parliamentary elections that are widely expected to give an easy win to the current ruling coalition. The assembly may be asked to decide on a major question of constitutional change.

Voters cast their ballots on the first day of elections in Rwanda Monday, with President Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) seen as certain of securing a resounding victory.

About six million people were eligible to vote, with turnout believed to be high despite the lack of a credible opposition.

Kagame was convinced that his party would win the election comfortably when asked if it would triumph. "I guess so," said Kagame. "I don't see any reason why the RPF should not win with a big margin."

According to analysts, the RPF faces no threat from any of its election opponents. The party has dominated the country's politics since the end of the genocide of 1994, in which almost a million people were killed, mainly those from the Tutsi ethnic minority being massacred by Hutu extremists.

The RPF is often credited with overseeing the transition from an era of mass-killings to one of relative stability and economic success, with the economy doubling in size over the past decade. However, opponents of the government say it has been guilty of political repression and that the country is set to become a one-party state.

The party leads a coalition that includes four smaller parties. Opposing it are three parties - the Liberals, Social Democrats and PS-Imberakuri. The country's Green party said it was only given the go-ahead to participate when it was already too late to prepare.

Turnout forces delays

Some polling stations were reported to have stayed open beyond their 3 p.m. local time deadline, because of large queues.

The only major instance of violence came ahead of the vote, when two people died in grenade explosions over the weekend in the capital, Kigali. While there was no claim of responsibility, the government blamed dissidents linked to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

The polling takes place over three days, with 53 of the seats having been directly contested in the Monday poll. The rest of the seats are reserved for women, disabled people and youth representatives, with separate polling taking place over the next two days.

The arrangement means that Rwanda is the only country in the world with a parliament that is composed of a majority of women.

rc/dr (AFP, dpa, Rwanda)