Kagame Wins Re-Election In Rwanda, Official Results Show

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has won re-election with 93 percent of the vote, with all districts counted, the Rwandan National Electoral Commission said Wednesday. Turnout was registered at just over 95 percent, it said. Electoral observers had expected the outcome, and Kagame claimed victory after early results gave him a huge lead in the nation's second presidential race since the 1994 genocide. Observers said the voting was peaceful and "largely accurate." Kagame welcomed the early results at a massive party Tuesday at the national stadium in the capital of Kigali. Thousands of supporters got free drinks and danced to live music. "This is your victory, this is a victory for all Rwandans," Kagame said during the celebration speech, in vernacular Kinyarwanda. "Our development depends on you." Human rights groups had expressed concern over violence and repression leading up to the vote, but Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the Commonwealth Observation Group, lauded the polling as transparent. "Elections in Rwanda were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere," Salim said. "The count in the polling stations was transparent and conducted fairly." But while the vote was highly organized and efficient -- thousands of people had lined up before dawn at polling stations across the country -- observers said Rwanda's democracy faces challenges that include issues of political inclusion and press freedoms. "There was a lack of critical opposition voices," Salim said. "Each case appears to be different, but the overall impact is a concern." Of three aspiring candidates, two are under arrest and another has fled to Europe. Three other candidates cleared by Rwanda's electoral commission ran on platforms similar to Kagame's and praised him throughout their campaigns. The only representatives at many polling stations were members of the ruling party, observers said.