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Ethiopia: Election Reports, Commentary
May 30, 2005 (050530)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Provisional results from the national election board show a
majority for the ruling party in Ethiopia's May 15 parliamentary
election, but also significant gains for opposition groups,
particularly in the capital Addis Ababa. Initial reports from
observers had highlighted the high turnout (over 90%) and the
relative calm of election day. However, opposition parties are also
claiming victory, with many charges of fraud yet to be
investigated. Critics have charged the international community with
turning a blind eye to intimidation and fraud by the government.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two recent reports from the UN's
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a critical
commentary from an Ethiopian professional living in Kenya, and
excerpts from an early May press release from Human Rights Watch
calling for attention to systematic repression in the southern Oromo-speaking
The official site of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is
For additional detailed election reports, visit
More news and critical commentary, including reports on
demonstrations and petitions demanding further investigation into
election fraud, are available on http://www.ethiomedia.com
An initial election report from the Carter Center, which critics
have termed complacently indifferent to allegations of intimidation
and fraud, is available at http://www.cartercenter.org/doc2097.htm
The European Union Electoral Observation Mission to Ethiopia
website is at http://www.et-eueom.org
For additional background links on Ethiopia, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Ethiopia: Ruling party gains majority seats in parliament
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
[IRIN reports may not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nations or its agencies.]
Addis Ababa, 30 May 2005 (IRIN) - Ethiopia's ruling party has taken
the majority of seats in recent parliamentary elections but
suffered large losses to opposition groups, provisional results
from the electoral board showed on Monday.
After 14 years in power, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's coalition
saw their parliamentary majority cut by more than 163 seats - in a
country that has never before had a genuine opposition.
Results for the 547-member parliament showed that the Ethiopian
People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had taken a
majority with 274 seats. The opposition parties had won 174 seats,
and there were more than 61 where ballot counting was still
incomplete. Parties allied to the ruling four-strong coalition took
The results were radically different from the May 2000 polls, when
the opposition won just 12 seats in the parliament.
Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's information minister and spokesman for
the EPRDF, welcomed the results and said that the high number of
seats going to opposition parties was a sign of growing democracy
in the country.
"These results have confirmed once again that the EPRDF has a clean
win, both in the federal parliament and the regional parliaments,"
he told IRIN. "There are significant seats that have not been
declared yet, and we expect to take between 25 and 35 of those
seats as well, bringing our total to over 300.
"This election says a lot about democracy in the country," the
minister added. "It has shown that people can vote for whomever
they want. It shows that Ethiopian democracy is maturing. The
biggest achievement of the election is that [however] people have
voted, they have done so freely."
More than 22 million people voted, according to the election board.
Before Meles starts his third five-year term in September, however,
opposition parties are threatening legal action in more than 139
seats, which could upset the balance of power.
"We cannot accept results in areas that are still contested," said
Berhanu Nega, the vice-chairman of the largest opposition party,
the Coalition for Unity and Democracy.
"Our lawyers are already preparing our case," he said. "The
evidence of abuse is simply overwhelming, and there is no way the
results can be announced in those seats.
"We are preparing a court injunction to prevent the election board
announcing results in those contested seats until all avenues have
been explored and investigations complete," he added.
Beyene Petros, vice-chairman of the United Ethiopian Democratic
Forces, also rejected the provisional results.
"Some seats the EPRDF has claimed are contested by us," he said on
Monday. "We won't accept these results until we have a legal ruling
Although the 15 May polls were labelled the most open in the
country's history, they have been dogged by allegations by all
parties of irregularities and criticism from EU observers over
delays in the count.
Official results are expected to be announced on 8 June, but the
election board says that it could be delayed because of the massive
number of complaints.
The ruling lost a number of high-profile seats, with Education
Minister Genet Zewdie, Revenue Minister Getachew Belay and Minister
for Capacity-Building Tefera Waliwa losing the election.
The prime minister has pledged more democracy, and many consider
the legislative race - the third ever in Ethiopia's history - a
test of his commitment to reform the country of 70 million.
Ethiopia: Concerns Over Delays in Vote Counting
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Addis Ababa, May 25, 2005
European Union election observers said on Wednesday that the recent
elections in Ethiopia were being seriously undermined by delays in
the counting of votes.
In a statement, the EU observers said the trickle of results,
claims of victory by the government and opposition and the denial
of access to the state-run media for government opponents was
threatening the electoral process.
"These practices, taken as a whole, are seriously undermining the
transparency and fairness of the elections," a statement released
by the observers said. "They also risk increasing the scope for
manipulation and consequently putting in doubt public confidence in
On Wednesday, results from only 186 constituencies of the 547-seat
parliament had been tallied, despite the elections taking place
nine days earlier.
Some 106 seats had gone to the ruling Ethiopian People's
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and affiliated parties, the
National Election Board (NEB) said. The opposition parties had won
The observer mission, led by Ana Gomes, expressed "regret" at the
way the NEB was counting and releasing votes.
"The European Union Election Observation Mission regrets the way in
which the counting of the votes at the constituency level is being
conducted as well as the way in which the release of results is
being handled by the electoral authorities, the government and the
political parties, especially the EPRDF," it said.
The mission criticised the state-run media in the country, saying
it had a "duty to report on post-election events in an even-handed
manner. This duty includes allowing all parties access to the
media, albeit while respecting the public interest".
The NEB had promised to release provisional results last Saturday,
but only a handful came in. It has been releasing new results each
Getahun Amogne, the NEB spokesman, said on Wednesday: "There is no
legislation that stops parties from claiming they have won seats.
The NEB will announce officially the results and they will remain
"By the end of this day we expect to receive almost half of the
results," he added. "Most constituencies have notified their
results, except those where complaints have been submitted, so we
don't believe we are lagging behind. We are progressing very well."
The main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy
(CUD), has threatened to boycott the parliament if its claims of
irregularities are not investigated. The CUD is contesting the
results of 139 constituencies that it says it has won.
The ruling party has also lodged more than 50 complaints - mainly
in Oromiya, the country's largest region. The NEB has asked four
senior judges to help go through all the complaints in time for the
declaration of the official result on 8 June.
Why can't Ethiopia's elections get the world's attention?
By Makeda Tsegaye
May 25, 2005
Despite being Africa's oldest independent nation, endowed with
adequate natural resources and massive social capital, most people
in the world associate Ethiopia with grotesque starvation and war.
Indeed, these two unfortunate episodes have easily caught the
attention of popular media such as CNN and BBC and the
international community. But why is an equally important but rather
positive episode not drawing as much attention?
On May 15, 2005, for the first time in the history of the country,
some 25 million Ethiopians turned out to vote in the country's
historic parliamentary and regional assembly elections. The huge
turnout was prompted by the participation of various political
parties who presented an alternative political and economic agenda
to people desperate for a change. International observers,
including former president Jimmy Carter and his team, and the
European Union team led by Ms. Anna Gomez, monitored voting in some
of the polling stations. The observers admired the general
discipline and peaceful participation of the public, while at the
same time highlighting some of the irregularities in the polling
stations that they visited.
It is important to note that Ethiopians' participation in the
election, which was characterized by remarkable discipline and
peaceful attitude, occurred amid the ruling party's
unconstitutional, illegal and intimidating acts prior to and during
the election, including harassment and detention of supporters of
the opposition parties mostly in the rural areas. It was these
unlawful and clearly undemocratic acts by the ruling party that
prompted Human Rights Watch to describe the election as a 'hollow
exercise' in some parts of the country. Nevertheless, taking
advantage of this window of opportunity, Ethiopians have made their
demands for a better life and better future clear in an
unprecedented way. One week prior to the election, the peoples of
Ethiopia demonstrated their support for the opposition parties in
the most disciplined and constitutionally approved manner. They
repeated the same discipline and peaceful demand for change during
the May 15 elections. On the other hand, the opposition parties
reported to the National Electoral Board major irregularities in
many rural polling stations where their observers were barred
whilst expressing their optimism in other areas. What followed this
remarkable process is at the crux of this piece.
A day after the election, the ruling party declared a state of
emergency in the capital and ordered a month-long ban on
demonstrations. Shortly after this announcement, they claimed
victory using the state controlled media while admitting defeat in
the capital, although votes were still being counted. Worse yet,
the National Electoral Board decided to announce results piecemeal,
as opposed to publishing provisional results from all
constituencies on Saturday May 22, 2005 as originally planned. The
National Electoral Board, which is not entirely independent, failed
to provide an explanation for the delay. Unsurprisingly, the delay
in vote counting elicited major concern amongst the public,
especially in light of the ruling party's repeated claims of
victory. In fact, some delayed results appear to have reversed
previous results which had been reported in favor of the opposition
parties. In the face of all these atrocities, the peoples of
Ethiopia could not peacefully protest and defend their votes due to
the month-long ban imposed on them by the ruling party. These
undemocratic actions of the ruling party are apparent to
representatives of the international community within and outside
the country. In addition, in March 2005, the international
community witnessed the expulsion of three American Civil Society
Organizations, namely International Republican Institute, National
Democratic Institute and IFES that had been working with the
National Electoral Board for not more than two months.
The following questions, therefore, remain: why has the
international community chosen to be silent? What are the world's
most democratic nations saying about the ruling party's
unconstitutional and undemocratic measures to tamper with people's
votes? It was quite encouraging to see the European Union's press
release on May 25, which tacitly condemned the ruling party's
undemocratic and illegal use of the public media, and manipulation
of the electoral process in general. How long will it take the US
to effectively react to the ruling party's decision of banning
post-election demonstration besides "monitoring the situation
closely"? Surprisingly, the best resolution that the 21-member
Foreign Ambassadors group could come up with on May 22 was to say
that "we ask all political leaders to engage in constructive
dialogue." Are we still talking about political parties? Isn't it
clear that Ethiopians have already expressed their will for a
change in the most responsible and peaceful manner? Isn't democracy
about responsible citizens exercising their democratic rights to
positively change the course of development and governance in their
own country? Or is this version of democracy considered a luxury
when it comes to Africa?
What happened to the unwavering support that the peoples of the
former Soviet Republic of Georgia enjoyed in their contested
election of November 2004? Why is the hotly contested election in
Ethiopia not getting even one third of the attention that the
former Soviet Republic of Georgia received via popular media such
as CNN and BBC, which reported the event live from the small
European nation? Is it because what is expected from a poor black
African nation is nothing but starvation and war? Would this not be
a good opportunity for the global proponents of democracy to
demonstrate that people's peaceful protest can bear results
irrespective of their geographic location in the world? Or is this
not considered an option at all for Africans 'whose fate is
predetermined as eternal misery and oppression'?
At this historic moment in the lives of many innocent, hardworking
and peace-loving Ethiopians, the world owes those starving
children, battered mothers and frustrated farmers a real answer.
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Ethiopia: Political Dissent Quashed Election Observers Should Not
Fail to Recognize Effects of Systematic Repression
[Excerpts. For full press release and other HRW reports on
(Nairobi, May 10, 2005) - As parliamentary elections approach, the
Ethiopian authorities have established new institutions that
suppress speech and political activity in the country's most
populous region, Human Rights Watch said in a report released
today. At the same time, officials have continued to detain and
harass perceived political opponents. The 44-page report,
"Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression
in Ethiopia's Oromia Region," documents how regional authorities
and security forces have used exaggerated concerns about armed
insurgency and "terrorism" to justify the torture, imprisonment and
sustained harassment of their critics and even ordinary citizens in
the central region of Oromia. The ethnic-based party that controls
the region, the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization, holds the
largest share of parliamentary seats within the four-party
coalition that has ruled Ethiopia since 1991.
Human Rights Watch said that election observers reporting on the
May 15 parliamentary vote must acknowledge the extent to which
these pervasive abuses have been used to prevent the emergence of
dissenting voices and to punish those who speak out critically
against government policies.
"The Ethiopian government claims that the elections demonstrate its
commitment to democratic principles," said Peter Takirambudde,
executive director of Human Rights Watch's Africa Division. "But in
the run-up to the elections, the authorities have intensified the
repression they have used to keep themselves in power for 13
In recent months, regional authorities in Oromia have imposed new
local institutions that restrict the large rural population's most
basic freedoms. For more than a decade, the region's ruling Oromo
Democratic Peoples' Organization has sought to solidify its grip on
power by punishing dissenters and intimidating others into silence.
So far, these abuses have been largely ignored by the international
The Oromo Democratic Peoples' Organization (OPDO) has enjoyed a
position of unchallenged dominance in Oromia's governance since
1991, following the overthrow of the military leader Mengistu Haile
Mariam. The following year, the Oromo Democratic Peoples'
Organization's only rival for political control of Oromia, the
Oromo Liberation Front, withdrew from the political process after
its candidates and supporters were harassed and intimidated in the
run up to parliamentary elections.
Since then, the Oromo Liberation Front has waged an ineffectual
armed struggle that has provided the authorities with a
rationalization for repression. Throughout this period, Oromo's
ruling party has routinely accused its critics and opponents of
involvement with the rebel group to justify subjecting them to
extreme abuse and harassment.
In March, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed dozens of
people in Oromia who had been arbitrarily detained, often
repeatedly, when officials accused them of supporting the Oromo
Liberation Front. In each of those cases, despite the inability of
Ethiopian government authorities to produce any evidence to support
their allegations, the detainees were held for weeks or months.
None of the former detainees interviewed had ever been tried for
any offense connected to their arrest or confronted with any
evidence that they had committed any crime. ...
Many of the people detained on suspicion of involvement in the
Oromo Liberation Front were severely beaten while in detention, and
some were subjected to brutal methods of torture. ...
In the past six months, regional authorities have taken even
greater efforts to stifle dissent in Oromia's countryside, where
more than 85 percent of the population lives. Beginning late last
year, Oromia's regional government began imposing an entirely new
set of quasi-governmental community "development" organizations
called gott and garee, in thousands of rural communities. While
government officials claim that these institutions exist to
facilitate development work, they are actually being used to
monitor and control the speech, movement and personal associations
of rural households in violation of fundamental rights. ...
In response to repeated demonstrations by students protesting
government policies, regional and local authorities have gone to
great lengths to monitor and suppress criticism in Oromia's
schools. Students said that they could not express themselves
freely in the classroom for fear of being suspended, expelled or
even imprisoned. Several teachers confirmed that such fears were
well-founded, describing how school administrators pressured them
into gathering and reporting information about their students'
People who have suffered abuse at the hands of government officials
because of their critical opinions said that they now avoid
speaking in public about the issues facing their communities. The
chilling effect of these abuses is most pronounced in Oromia's
countryside, where dozens of farmers interviewed by Human Rights
Watch said that the efforts of the garee to monitor their opinions
have caused them to avoid any discussion that might be seen as
"I used to speak at meetings about things that I thought were
wrong. But now I never do this," one elderly man told Human Rights
Watch. "They are too suspicious of anyone whose ideas are not the
same as theirs."
Human Rights Watch called upon the Ethiopian government to take
immediate action to end these deeply entrenched patterns of human
rights violations and to hold responsible security and government
officials accountable for their role in carrying them out.
International donors should employ their considerable leverage to
press the country's government into taking prompt and meaningful
action in this regard.
With elections approaching on May 15, Human Rights Watch also urged
international election observers to acknowledge the extent to which
these abuses have restricted the possibility for meaningful
political debate in the country's most populous region.
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