Ethiopia's foreign donors appealed for calm on Saturday as the first preliminary returns from last weekend's hotly contested elections showed the opposition almost doubling its parliamentary seats.
Amid fierce disputes over the credibility of Sunday's polls and complaints about the slowness of the release of results, ambassadors from 21 foreign nations urged the Ethiopian government, opposition and people to be patient and respect the authority of the national election board.
"The Ambassadors Donors Group calls upon all political parties to be calm and patient as the tabulation process is under way," it said in a statement published in Ethiopian newspapers.
"We ask all parties to respect the role of the national election board in counting and declaring the results," the group said. "We ask all political leaders to engage in constructive dialogue.
Describing the current situation as an "historic time," it also urged all parties concerned "to maintain integrity in the vote tabulation process and to respect the expressed will of the people at the ballot box."
The statement came as the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) began to release official preliminary results from a handful of the country's 547 constituencies with the opposition posting large gains.