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Rwandan Candidate Accepts Court Dismissal of Unfair Election Claim - 2003-09-03


The leading opposition candidate in Rwanda's presidential election says he accepts a high court dismissal of his petition claiming that the election was not free and fair.

The challenge to last week's presidential election came from the leading opposition candidate, Faustin Twagiramungu, who lost to the incumbent president, Paul Kagame, by an overwhelming margin. Rwanda's Supreme Court threw out Mr. Twagiramungu's petition after he failed to produce concrete evidence of electoral fraud or irregularities.

In his petition, Mr. Twagiramungu alleged that the polls were rigged, his supporters were intimidated, voters were pressured to vote for President Paul Kagame and other violations of the electoral law.

But Mr. Twagiramungu told VOA in an interview that it was impossible for him to provide proof of his allegations because, he says, his observers were barred from entering polling stations.

"It was our right to petition the case, but in conclusion we knew that the court will not accept it, because we did not have observers," said Mr. Twagiramungu. "They could simply contest because we had no observers so our evidence had no value."

The Supreme Court dismissed the petition on Tuesday for lack of evidence.

Incumbent President Paul Kagame was declared the winner of last week's presidential election, capturing around 95 percent of the vote. Much of the rest of the vote went to Mr. Twagiramungu.

European Union observers who monitored the balloting said that, while "an important step" for democracy in Rwanda, the election had a number of irregularities. Among them, the European monitors cited voter intimidation by Mr. Kagame's supporters, ballot box stuffing, and fictitious voter lists. They said international observers were not welcome at many stations.

The country's National Electoral Commission said the elections were free and fair, and rejected claims by the European Union and Mr. Twagiramungu that there was rigging or intimidation of voters and supporters of the candidates.

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