KIGALI, Rwanda – Rwanda's longtime President Paul Kagame has won a third term in office in what he had called "a formality."
Electoral authorities overnight said Kagame has won more than 98 percent of the vote with 80 percent of the votes counted so far, with no major change expected when final results are announced later Saturday. He had faced two challengers.
Kagame has already addressed jubilant supporters at party headquarters and urged Rwandans, including those who hadn't supported him, to work together.
Kagame has led the East African nation of 12 million people since the end of its genocide in 1994 in which more than 800,000 people died.
The 59-year-old president has been praised for the country's economic growth, but human rights groups accuse his government of using state powers to silence opponents. Rwandan authorities deny it.
A constitutional amendment in 2015 allows Kagame to stay in power until 2034 if he pursues it.
Kagame was running against Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda — the only permitted opposition party — and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana. Three potential candidates were disqualified for allegedly failing to fulfil requirements including collecting enough signatures.
With 80 percent of the votes counted, Mpayimana had received just 0.72 percent and conceded defeat and congratulated Kagame. Habineza received 0.45 percent.
Candidates had been barred from putting campaign posters in most public places, including schools and hospitals. The electoral commission vetted candidates' campaign messages, warning that their social media accounts could be blocked otherwise.
More than 80 percent of Rwanda's 6.9 million registered voters cast their ballots, according to Charles Munyaneza, executive secretary of the Rwanda Electoral Commission..