Rwanda’s President, who has ruled the tiny African nation for 17 years, won the country’s latest election with a massive landslide, the electoral commission said on Saturday. With 80 per cent of ballots counted, Paul Kagame looked set to secure 98.66 per cent of the vote, easily brushing aside his rivals Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, who took just 0.45 per cent, and independent candidate Phillippe Mpayimana, who took 0.72 per cent, Efe reprted.
The electoral commission said full results were expected in the afternoon but insisted that the outcome was all but certain.
Kagame’s supporters began celebrating before voting ended on Friday amid a noticeable increase police presence and added security measures in the country’s capital, Kigali.
The 59-year-old leader is heralded by his followers as being responsible for peace and stability in a country devastated by genocide in 1994.
His critics, however, accuse him of holding onto power by instilling fear amongst the population.
During the election campaign, slogans published by Kagame’s rivals on social media had to first be passed by the electoral commission for authorization as to not pose a threat to social cohesion in the country.
The president’s third term comes off the back of a 2015 referendum in which 98 per cent of the electorate opted to abolish the presidency’s two-term limit.
In the previous two presidential elections in 2003 and 2010, Kagame took 90 and 93 per cent of the vote respectively.
Local analysts have often attributed these landslide victories to a widely-held perception that the government is responsible for the peace and prosperity in the nation combined with a fear that instability could hail a return to the ethnic violence seen in the 1994 genocide.
Over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a Hutu-led campaign of massacres and mass killings in that year.