Ethiopia: Huge Turnout for Federal Elections
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 16, 2005
Millions of Ethiopians went to the polls on Sunday in elections that
were widely expected to hand Prime Minister Meles Zenawi a third
At dawn, huge queues of voters snaked around polling stations for the
country's third-ever elections in what is seen as a key test of
Meles's plan to introduce greater democracy in this country of 70
The poll had been marred by the opposition's allegations of
harassment up to the eve of voting. One of the main opposition
groups, the Coalition for Unity and Development (CUD), said hundreds
of election monitors had been arrested, and it threatened not to
accept the results of the vote.
Government officials dismissed the allegations.
European Union observers inspecting two polling stations in central
Addis Ababa, one of the most hotly contested seats, found several
hundred pre-marked ballots.
Observers, however, said the elections had generally been more
competitively fought than the 2000 polls, which were won by the
ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, one of the 319 international
election observers, said on Sunday the elections had gone smoothly.
"The reports we are getting is that it is all going peacefully," he
told reporters after visiting polling stations in Addis Ababa.
Meles told reporters that his party would accept the results of the vote.
"If the international observers say the opposition won, we will
accept that decision," the prime minister said while casting his vote
in Adwa, in the northern Tigray province.
The CUD, led by Hailu Shawel, a wealthy businessman, fielded 400
candidates and presently has three members in parliament.
"Ethiopia today has its destiny in its hands," Hailu said as he
prepared to vote just after the polls opened at dawn. "We hope
Ethiopia is going to call it a day and empower itself."
The other main opposition group, the United Ethiopian Democratic
Forces (UEDF), has nine representatives in parliament and fielded 240
Beyene Petros, vice-chairman of the UEDF, said his party believed
widespread abuses had taken place, claiming their observers and some
candidates had been locked up.
"Even on the eve of the voting, our observers are being arrested,
harassed and denied access," he told a news conference on Saturday.
"We are extremely distressed, having worked very hard. The reports we
are receiving are only the tip of the iceberg."
The EU chief observer, Ana Gomes, told journalists there had been
some scattered irregularities but her concern was the "flood" of
voters and the delays in casting their ballots. Some voters had to
wait up to six hours to vote.
More than 25 million people had registered to vote, and the electoral
board predicted that 90 percent of them had cast their ballot at one
of the 31,000 polling stations. Provisional results at each station
were expected to be announced on Monday, and official results will be
certified on 8 June.