Ethiopia’s electoral board yesterday rejected opposition demands for a fresh election after the government last month won a landslide victory that the Europe Union and the United States said failed to meet international standards.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allied parties won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament, giving long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi another five years in power.
The Horn of Africa country’s largest opposition coalition, the eight-party Medrek, won just a single seat in parliament. Medrek and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party called for a rerun claiming vote rigging and widespread intimidation.
“We have looked at the application of the parties Medrek and the AEUP and neither of them came up with any evidence,” Addisu Gebregziabher, vice chairman of the National Electoral Board (NEB) told Reuters.
“We have discussed their request for a rerun and we have made a decision contrary to their desire. They brought only allegations, not evidence.”
The aftermath of the May 23 poll is being closely watched by foreign diplomats in a country that is a growing destination for investment and Washington’s key ally in the Horn of Africa, where it is seen as a bulwark against Islamic militancy.
At Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005, an opposition coalition cried foul after the EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats. Riots erupted in the capital on two separate occasions. Security forces killed 193 protesters and seven policemen died.
Medrek immediately rejected the NEB decision and said it was now considering mounting a challenge to the election result through the courts.
“It is simply not true for them to say we submitted no evidence,” Negaso Gidada, a Medrek leader and former Ethiopian president, told Reuters.
“We submitted proof of ballots being thrown away, of our members being intimidated on voting day and in the run up to the election, and of people losing their food aid privileges if they refused to vote for the EPRDF.”
A European Union observer mission said the election was marred by the EPRDF’s use of state resources for campaigning and the United States said the government’s next steps could shape the future of US ties to the country.
Pic: Ethiopian Prime Minister- Meles Zenawi