May 23, 2005

Oromo: Ethiopia Orders Re-election at Six Polling Stations

On Friday 20 May the state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said on Sunday Ethiopia will hold re-elections at six polling stations where ballot boxes were stuffed or votes were otherwise held improperly
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Ethiopia will hold re-elections on Sunday at six polling stations where ballot boxes were stuffed or votes were otherwise held improperly, the state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said on Friday.

The Ethiopian Election Board also said it was investigating charges of major voting fraud levelled by both the ruling party and the opposition parties.

Since May 15's parliamentary election, Ethiopia's opposition coalition and the ruling party have claimed victory, putting the two sides on a collision course over who has the mandate to govern.

"Re-election will be held next Sunday in six polling stations in Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNP), where polling on May 15 was not conducted appropriately," Tesfaye Mengesha, deputy head of the Ethiopian Election Board, told ENA.

The decision falls far short of the demand by the main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), for repeat polls in 27 constituencies and a vote recount in 57 districts across the Horn of Africa nation of 72 million people.

The CUD said the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had chased its election observers away and had tampered with the votes.

Tesfaye also cautioned that the parties' claims of victory made in the media are meaningless, since it is the election board that will certify the results.

Preliminary results from the May 15 poll are due on Saturday, while official results are due on June 8.

There were various reasons why the board decided to conduct the votes again in the six districts, he said.

At one voting station in Oromia "election executives at the polling station had been caught while illegally putting several ballot papers into the ballot box," he said.

At another location, the ballot box was left unattended and unlocked by election officials after there were disturbances in in the station.

The EPRDF has said it won more than 300 of the 547 seats in the parliament, but the opposition coalition says it has a combined 203 seats so far and is confident of winning.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government banned public demonstrations for the month after the vote, and has promised to clamp down hard on any post-election violence.

Source: Reuters