Rwandan President Paul Kagame has won a third term in office, garnering 98 per cent of votes, according to partial results released by the electoral commission Saturday.
Kalisa Mbanda, the chairman of the National Election Commission (NEC), declaring the winner, said 80 per cent of results had been counted.
“We are not expecting any serious changes in the coming hours. At this point we declare that the RPF candidate, Paul Kagame, is the winner of the election,” Prof Mbanda said.
President Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) party were largely expected to win with a landslide.
The president led with 5.4 million votes, representing 98.66 per cent.
His rivals, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana, barely got one per cent of the votes.
Mpayimana, who surprised many for scoring better than the Green Party flagbearer, received 39,620 votes, representing 0.72 per cent.
Habineza scored 0.45 per cent with 24,904 votes.
President Kagame also swept the diaspora vote scoring 98.95 per cent of the ballots cast on Thursday in the country’s embassies across the globe.
Shortly after the results were announced, Mpayimana, a former journalist, conceded defeat, congratulated President Kagame and pointed out that his feat should encourage more Rwandans to exercise their political and democratic rights.
Habineza is yet to concede.
President Kagame addressing jubilant supporters at the party headquarters in Gasabo urged all Rwandans to work together.
“Work begins now. The will of the people has prevailed, despite what the critics of our democracy say. You have proved to the world that Rwandans know what they want,” he said.
Under a barrage of criticism for seeking a third term, the 59-year-old leader, is credited with turning around the country over the past 23 years. Rwanda’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world boasting annual growth of about seven per cent.
But human rights groups say his government is repressive.
In 2015, a constitutional amendment allowed him to seek the third term and also permitted him to stay in power until 2034 if he so desires. However, he has since hinted he will retire after his new seven-year term.