By Themistocle Hakizimana and Hereward Holland
KIGALI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame
danced his way towards a second seven-year term on Tuesday after
preliminary results gave the bush war veteran 93 percent of the
vote in more than a third of country's districts.
Kagame urged supporters to await the final tally, but said
he did not expect the outcome to change and the apparent margin
of his win came as little surprise.
In the last election in 2003, Kagame notched up 95 percent
of the vote. A repeat performance was predicted, partly because
of the economic growth and stability he has delivered but also
because of a crackdown on rivals and critics.
"It's really a coronation of Mr Kagame. I don't think we'd
call it a genuine election," said Muzong Kodi, an Africa analyst
at the Chatham House think-tank.
"It's not the manner in which the polling has been
organised. The election results are decided months in advance of
the polling by the way the opposition was treated, by the way
dissent was clamped down on," he said.
The preliminary results from the National Electoral
Commission, broadcast on a screen at an overnight victory rally
in a Kigali stadium, showed that in 11 out of 30 districts
Kagame had garnered 1,610,422 out of 1,734,671 votes cast.
Supporters of Kagame, who has been in control since his
rebel army swept to power and ended the genocide of 800,000
ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994, hailed their hero as
fireworks crowned the victory celebration at the stadium.
Surrounded by his family, Kagame danced rigidly in front of
a sea of euphoric, flag-waving supporters gathered at the
Amahoro Stadium, where thousands of ethnic Tutsis sought refuge
during the genocide.
Commonwealth observers said voting had been peaceful and
organised but said French-speaking Rwanda, which joined the
Commonwealth group of nations in November last year, needed to
address issues of political participation and media freedoms.
"While the campaign was fairly active, albeit dominated by
the largest party, the fact that the four candidates were all
drawn from the governing coalition meant there was a lack of
critical opposition voices," Salim Ahmed Salim, head of the
Commonwealth Observer Group, told reporters.
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION?
Vote counting appeared to dry up after a national holiday
was called and it was unclear when further provisional results
or a final outcome would be announced.
Kagame has been president of Rwanda since 2000 and cruised
to victory in 2003 -- the first elections since the 1994
Despite being poor in resources, Rwanda is a rising star in
Africa for donors and investors and Kagame has been feted as a
visionary leader and African icon.
While most of Rwanda's neighbours and donors are expected to
be satisfied with a Kagame victory, some analysts said the most
dominant figure in post-genocide Rwanda would likely have to
repair his tainted image.
They said Rwanda could expect far more foreign direct
investment if it improved its democratic accountability rather
than becoming more autocratic.
"You have to wonder about the broader socio-political
situation that produces a vote like this," said a Western
diplomat, commenting on the seemingly certain landslide.
Registration troubles prevented three outspoken parties from
fielding candidates. Two party chiefs were arrested on charges
including stirring ethnic hatred and genocide ideology.
Other opponents complain of threats and intimidation. Two
newspapers were suspended in April, a critical journalist was
shot dead in June and the body of a senior member of the
Democratic Green Party was found nearly beheaded in July.
"I think the international community will be happy with the
way it went. His next term in office is going to be watched
closely to make sure that Rwanda is moving towards genuine
democracy," said Chatham House's Kodi.