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Rwandans Await Certification of Election Results - 2003-10-02

The process of electing representatives to Rwanda's lower house of parliament is continuing, but the ruling coalition of the Rwandan Patriotic Front has already secured an overwhelming majority in the legislature.

The results of Rwanda's parliamentary election will not be official until they are certified by the Supreme Court sometime next week. But the ruling party of President Paul Kagame won nearly 75 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, and that assures it a majority of 53 seats in the 80-seat Chamber of Deputies.

The opposition Social Democratic party won just more than 12 percent of the vote and the Liberal Party got nearly 11 percent.

The lopsided victory of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has some political analysts worried.

Head of the steering committee for the independent Program of Election Monitoring, Noel Twagiramungu [no relation to Faustin Twagiramungu], told VOA this week's legislative elections were more free and fair than the presidential balloting held on August 25.

However, he said the crushing victory of RPF and the weakness of the opposition may well stifle political debate. "For me, there is no hope for freedom, for democratic debate," he said.

In addition to winning a comfortable majority in the parliament, President Paul Kagame amassed almost 95 percent of the vote in the August presidential election.

The head of the European Union's observer mission, Colette Flesch, said this week's parliamentary elections were carried out without a major incident. In some places it went quite well," she said. "But in other places, they tried not to allow us to go into the polling station, which is specifically provided for in the electoral instructions, that we can go in."

Ms. Flesch said it was too early to give the final verdict on the fairness of the balloting.

However, National Electoral Commission chairman Chrisologue Karangwa tells VOA there were no irregularities in the legislative elections. "We had free and fair elections," he said. "And we had more than 2,000 observers."

Rwanda's legislative elections, in which eight political parties and 17 independent candidates vied for seats, are being held in several stages.

On Monday, representatives of youth and disabled organizations elected three members to the Chamber of Deputies. The chamber's remaining 24 seats, which go to women, are expected to be elected.

The 26 members of Rwanda's Senate are to be chosen by President Paul Kagame, and other officials.