Rwandan ruling party wins election, women MPs in majority

Rwanda's ruling party the Rwanda Patriotic Front (FPR) has won parliamentary elections, with the African nation set to become the first in the world to have a female majority in parliament, preliminary results revealed Wednesday, reported dpa.

The FPR won 42 out of 53 seats up for grabs in Monday's direct vote, the electoral commission said. The Social Democratic Party won seven seats and the Liberal Party four.

The poll is the second parliamentary election since 1994, when the Hutu militia and military massacred 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the space of a few months.

Tutsi-dominated forces led by Kagame ended the slaughter.

Rwanda's post-genocide constitution specifies that at least 30 per cent of its MPs must be female.

To ensure this figure is reached, 24 female members of parliament were voted in by provincial and city councils on Tuesday, although results were not yet available.

However, women could also stand in the direct elections on Monday.

In the last parliament 48.8 per cent of MPs were women. Now the electoral commission said the women were set make up at least 55 per cent of parliament.

Youth and disabled representatives were due to be elected Wednesday and Thursday.

Overseas votes had still to be counted before the result could be finalized, and the commission said final results were not expected until September 25.

The Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party both support the FPR, but opposition groups in exile have said that the elections "amount to a smokescreen."

The European Commission, which sent an observer mission, said that the elections were well organized, but added that the transparency and verifiability of the poll could still be improved.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003 - the first since a transitional government took power in 1994 - drew fire for being unfair.

Kagame won the presidency with over 95 per cent of the vote, and an FPR-led coalition easily won the parliamentary elections.

However, opposition parties were banned until just before the elections, and bodies such as Amnesty International said opposition politicians faced a campaign of "political pressure, violence and intimidation."

Kagame's supporters say he has helped Rwanda to stability and firm economic growth through reform, while opponents are critical of his authoritarian style.

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