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Rwandan Patriotic Front Poised for Huge Election Victory - 2003-10-01

The Rwandan Patriotic Front is poised to win an overwhelming majority in the country's first legislative elections in almost a decade.

The last votes are still being counted. But, according to National Electoral Commission chairman Chrisologue Karangwa, preliminary results from five out of the country's 12 provinces and 13 out of 15 embassies show the Rwandan Patriotic Front is leading by a substantial margin, having captured more than 75 percent of the vote. "For those partial results I can confirm that the RPF is winning," he said.

These legislative elections come one month after incumbent and RPF leader Paul Kagame captured nearly 95 percent of the vote in the country's first presidential election since the 1994 genocide.

EU observers had said the presidential election, while being an important step for democracy in Rwanda, had a number of irregularities. These included voter intimidation by Mr. Kagame's supporters, ballot box stuffing, and fictitious voter lists. The National Electoral Commission denied the EU allegations and said the election was free and fair.

The head of the steering committee for the independent Program of Election Monitoring, Noel Twagiramungu [no relation to Faustin Twagiramungu], says this week's legislative elections were more free and fair than the presidential one.

He said Tuesday's balloting passed without a hitch. "In general, I think the election is free and there is no visible pressure. If, for instance, we compare to what happened for presidential elections, we think now the situation is more calm. People seem to be somehow free to vote," he said.

He and other observers noted, however, that voter turnout was low in these elections compared to the presidential one.

Rwandans are electing deputies to the 80 seat Chamber of Deputies. Eight political parties and 17 independent candidates are fielding candidates.