April 21, 2008
Ethiopia’s mammoth round of elections are closing amid growing evidence of intimidation and vote rigging, especially in the Oromia region.
Below is an article reported by Tsegaye Tadesse and published by Reuters:
Ethiopians cast their ballots in the final round of council and parliamentary elections on Sunday [20 April 2008] with the ruling party expected to win after two opposition parties quit the race alleging intimidation.
The elections are Ethiopia's first since a disputed 2005 poll sparked deadly clashes, killing some 200 people and tarnishing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's democratic credentials.
This month's voting was marred by the opposition pullout and explosions on Monday [14 April 2008] in the capital Addis Ababa that killed three people and wounded 18.
The biggest parliamentary opposition group, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) withdrew its 20,000 candidates on April 10 , saying many of its members had been prevented from registering by the authorities.
A second party, the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), said it was withdrawing from the ongoing election on Friday [18 April 2008], accusing the ruling party of intimidating its agents during the first round of voting last Sunday [13 April 2008].
Meles' special adviser Bereket Simon has said the OFDM claims were merely a tactic to "escape from facing defeat".
Political analysts say the expected landslide victory by Meles' Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) would sideline opponents even more, making them less likely to challenge the government at the ballot box in the future.