June 18, 2005

Oromo: Ethiopia's Ruling Party Extends Vote Success

Ethiopia's ruling party has won control of four powerful regional legislatures, widening its success after polls last month that led to bloodshed, according to preliminary results issued on Friday
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Ethiopia's ruling party has won control of four powerful regional legislatures, widening its success after polls last month that led to bloodshed, according to preliminary results issued on Friday.

However, the main opposition coalition disputed the results for Ethiopia's powerful state councils, saying the tallies were marred by the same fraud that occurred in simultaneous federal parliamentary elections on May 15.

The allegations of fraud in the parliamentary vote sparked public demonstrations in the capital Addis Ababa last week, and at least 36 people were killed when police opened fire on rock-throwing protesters.

Already, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and its allies have provisionally won enough seats in the 547-member federal parliament to form the next government.

The Ethiopian electoral board said provisional results showed the EPRDF now had enough seats to control the lower-level state councils in the populous Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples State, Tigray and Amhara regions.

More votes needed to be tallied before the final make-up of all nine state councils would be determined, the board said.

Under Ethiopia's federal system, the state councils are effectively the parliaments for their regions and exercise considerable influence over regional affairs.

The main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) said it disputed the results and that the numbers did not matter until investigations into voting irregularities in 299 constituencies were completed. Final results are due on July 8.

"They are provisional, they don't mean much until the investigation is over," CUD Deputy Chairman Berhanu Nega said.

The CUD had heard that the electoral board is looking into claims of fraud and improprieties in at least 200 of those constituencies, Berhanu said.

"This is bound to change the picture," he said.

Millions voted in the election, only the second true multi-party polls in Africa's top coffee producer, the second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa with 72 million.

Source: Reuters