Four Seats Enough, Rwanda's Opposition Declares Vote Victory

(Bloomberg) -- Rwandan opposition parties won just four seats in parliamentary elections -- but that’s enough for one of their leaders to hail a victory for democracy in the tightly controlled East African nation.

The outcome of the Sept. 3 vote marks the first time a party not in the Rwandan Patriotic Front coalition has secured lawmakers since the country was torn apart by a 1994 genocide. Provisional results show the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and Social Party Imberakuri each attained 5 percent of ballots, winning them two seats apiece in the 53-member parliament’s lower chamber.

“This is a big victory for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and for democracy in Rwanda,” Frank Habineza, the organization’s leader, said by phone from the capital, Kigali. The party will now try to persuade other lawmakers to adopt parts of its political agenda, he said.

Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame won a third term in a landslide victory last year, is accused by rights groups of cracking down on political opponents and the media. Authorities reject the criticism and point to the landlocked country’s economic revival since the coming to power of Kagame, who led a rebel army that ended the genocide in which about 800,000 people died.

Habineza was allowed to compete in presidential elections for the first time in 2017 and won just 0.5 percent of ballots. He complained of harassment and intimidation by authorities before that vote.

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