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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ethiopia: Election Board Criticised for Barring Local Observers

Ethiopia's National Election Board (NEB) was criticised by a local watchdog on Monday for barring thousands of domestic observers from monitoring the country's parliamentary elections in May.

Netsanet Demissie, director of the Organisation for Social Justice (OSJ) - an umbrella group of 35 Ethiopian organisations - said new rules imposed by the board would exclude at least two-thirds of their planned observation team.

"This is going to have a very negative impact," Netsanet, whose body was hoping to field around 3,000 observers for Ethiopia's third-ever democratic ballot, told a news conference. "This is definitely a setback for holding free and fair elections."

Under new rules, local organisations wanting to monitor elections must meet two criteria: they must have registered with the government as election observers when they were originally founded, and they must also prove that they are independent.

Netsanet said only a handful of groups hoping to monitor the elections would have originally registered as observers because the idea was a new phenomenon in Ethiopia.

Reuters AlertNet

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