Kagame’s Party Favored in Rwandan Parliamentary Election

President Paul Kagame
Less than two decades since a genocide cost the lives of more than 800,000 Rwandans, President Paul Kagame has vowed to pull citizens out of poverty by transforming the land-locked tea- and coffee growing nation into a middle-income economy by 2020 by developing infrastructure such as transport links and energy supplies, and promoting regional integration. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Rwandan parliamentary elections began today in a contest that President Paul Kagame’s ruling party is expected to win handily.

Balloting is being held over three days, with results expected by Sept. 20, Kalisa Mbanda, chairman of the National Electoral Commission, said in a Sept. 13 phone interview from the capital, Kigali. The vote is the third since Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front took power after fighting to end a genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

“The RPF is associated, more than any other political party, with the gains Rwanda has made since 1994,” Fredrick Golooba-Mutebi, a Kigali-based political analyst, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “It is also better resourced than any other party, is larger, and has far greater reach into the countryside than all the other parties.”

Coffee-producing Rwanda’s economy has doubled in size in the nine years through 2010, according to the World Bank. It may expand 7.5 percent this year after 8 percent last year, the International Monetary Fund said in June.

In May, the country raised $400 million in a debut sale of Eurobonds to repay debt and build a power plant. The sale has helped boost foreign-currency reserves, allowing the central bank to support the franc. The currency gained for a third day, advancing 0.3 percent to 655.5 per dollar by 4:20 p.m. in Kigali.

’No Opposition’

Rwanda’s Parliament includes a 26-member Senate and Chamber of Deputies of 80 seats, 24 of which are reserved for women representatives, two for youths and one for people with disabilities, according to Mbanda.

Voting for female representatives is scheduled for tomorrow and the disabled and young people on Sept. 18, he said. Senators are elected by provincial and sectoral councils, and appointed by the president.

The RPF currently holds 35 of the 53 elected seats in the chamber and cooperates with the Social Democratic Party, PSD, and Liberal Party, PL.

The newly accredited Democratic Green Party will not participate in the election because it was registered a day before the deadline of submitting candidates for the vote, according to its leader Frank Habineza.

“The ruling party is going to have no challenge in the polls because it has no opposition, and this is a challenge to democracy,” Habineza said in a phone interview from Kigali. “The other two parties, PSD and PL, are already official partners with the government, so we don’t expect any competition.”

Voting today closed at 3 p.m., Mbanda said.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at dmalingha@bloomberg.net; Saul Butera in Kigali at sbutera2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net