May 2, 2005
Two members have been shot dead, hundreds of supporters rounded up and imprisoned while dozens others have disappeared in the past month, Mesfin Nemera of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party said on behalf of the five groups contesting the May 15 poll.
"As the election day approaches opposition parties are facing extreme difficulties such as random killings, imprisonment and disappearances," Mesfin told journalists on behalf of his party; the Coalition for Unity and Democracy; the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces; the Ethiopian Pan-Africanist Party; and the United Ethiopian Democratic Party-Medhin.
Information Minister Bereket Simon, who is also spokesman for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, dismissed the allegations. He said his party had given some 600,000 of its members a code of conduct to prevent electoral abuses.
"This is an absolute lie and pure fabrication. Our members would be prosecuted if found to have taken part in abuses," Bereket said. "We believe that the ruling party is enjoying its finest years and has enhanced credibility across the board so why do we need to take part in such unethical practices when we are going to win the election with a landslide?"
National Elections Board Chairman Kemal Bedri said they had not been "formally" informed of the allegations.
"But we will investigate the allegations and if we are satisfied these things have happened we will ask for steps to be taken against alleged perpetrators of these crimes," said Kemal.
Mesfin said government militia had opened fire at opposition rallies to disperse crowds while opposition candidates and voters perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition had been forced to hand over voting cards.
More than 25 million of Ethiopia's 71 million people have registered to vote in the legislative elections. Some 35 political parties will vie for seats in the 547-seat Council of People's Representatives, Ethiopia's lower house of parliament.
Voters will also elect representatives in nine state parliaments that will appoint members of the 112-seat Council of the Federation, Ethiopia's upper house of parliament.
Previous elections have been convincingly won by the Ethiopian
People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. It and affiliated parties currently
hold 519 seats in the Council of People's Representatives.