Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ethiopian Opposition Leader Rejects Vote

The leader of Ethiopia's main opposition party called for his coalition to reject the results of Sunday's election before balloting was even over, citing massive irregularities across the country that he said made it impossible for the vote to be free and fair.

Hailu Shawel, the leader of the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy, said the four political parties that make up the group will meet later Sunday to make a final decision.

``It is a disaster all over the country,'' he said. ``All of our observers have been kicked out and we have been stopped from voting on some areas.''

The vice chairman of the other opposition group, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, said his coalition would decide Monday.

``The situation is totally intolerable,'' Beyene Petros said.

Opposition leaders have complained all along that Ethiopia's third-ever election was marred by police harassment. Foreign election observers, however, have found little evidence of systematic abuses and have called the campaign and Sunday's voting generally free and fair.

Guardian Unlimited

Photo Courtesy: REUTERS/ Antony Njuguna
Ethiopian opposition leader for the Coalition of Unity and Democracy (CUD) Hailu shawel, casts his vote at a polling station in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa May 15, 2005. Millions of Ethiopians voted on Sunday in parliamentary polls seen as a key test of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa's second most populous country. The election, only the second real multi-party contest in Africa's top coffee producer, is expected to hand a third term to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who toppled dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 ending 17 years of Marxist rule.

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