Paul Kagame, the former leader of the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front, has been re-elected as President of Rwanda in a landslide victory. With over 90% voter turnout, neither of his challengers managed to secure even 1% of the vote, with Kagame successfully securing 98.63% of the vote. In 2015, a referendum allowing presidents to run for a third term was successfully passed, simultaneously changing the number of consecutive terms and lowering the sitting period to five years from a previous seven, effective in 2024.
This referendum was the source of some controversy, with some speculating that the changes had been passed in order to continue Kagame’s rule, noting the increasing presence of police, the disappearance of political opponents, and an intolerance of dissent. However, this election has been more transparent than those prior, with more significant coverage around President Kagame’s opponents and increased debate concerning the government’s record. President Kagame has been the leader of Rwanda since 1994.
Rwanda’s unique context following the ghastly 1994 genocide has seen a society that has had to reconcile their differences. President Kagame has received international praise for his efforts, such as promoting national stability and economic development. However, despite notable progress, Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
President Kagame has maintained popularity in Rwanda in spite of issues around unemployment and Rwanda has enjoyed significant increases in literacy rates and infrastructure while poverty and infant mortality rates have fallen at record rates. Rwanda can certainly boast stability in an unstable region.
In response to critics, President Kagame has noted the context through which the election must be viewed, with a backdrop of destruction and violence. It has been said that many credit the President with reforming the country and bringing peace, a sentiment that is reflected in his widespread support.
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