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August 26, 2003

Rwanda Vote

Rwanda's incumbent President, Paul Kagame's, has won his country's first free election since 1994. At least if you listen to him. With nearly 8 of every 10 eligible voters turning out to do their civic duty, Kagame won over 95% of the vote.

The BBC's Andrew Harding says the figures prove that the former soldier has won support from across Rwanda's ethnic divide.

As a referendum on the president's rule, he says, it is an impressive result and a tribute to the stability and reconciliation which his government has promoted.

Whenever the leader wins 95+% of the vote, you have to be a little skeptical. While Andrew Harding, of the BBC, simply accepts the vote as legitimate, the rest of us might wonder.

Mr Twagiramungu, the main challenger, is a moderate Hutu former prime minister. He complained that he was unable to campaign freely.

On the eve of the poll, 12 of his supporters were arrested for allegedly planning to "co-ordinate acts of violence" in the provinces.

Oddly, even without intimidation tactics and even with a more open election process, I think it likely that Kagame would have won. His popularity does cross ethnic lines, his voice does honestly seem to be respected widely in his country.

He could have won honestly. Instead, he chose to play be very typical developing country rules: keep the opposition off balance until the election, use intimidation where necessary, and limit popular exposure for the opposition. Until the final reports on the election come in, it's hard to say just how much tampering took place and what the appropriate Western response will be.

Until we do know, though, a little skepticism would be a healthy thing.

Read the BBC story.

Posted by zombyboy at August 26, 2003 09:55 PM
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