Saturday, May 21, 2005

Ethiopian Poll Results Show Opposition Gains

The first official preliminary returns from Ethiopia's hotly contested polls last weekend show the opposition almost doubling its number of parliamentary seats, the country's election board said on Saturday.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) said the opposition had won 22 of the 27 constituencies from which it had so far received aggregated results. There are 547 constituencies in the country.

"Of the 27 constituencies where we received results, 22 seats went to the opposition," said NEBE spokesperson Getahun Amogne.

Before last Sunday's polls, the members of the two main opposition groups, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEFD) had held only 12 seats in parliament.

Among the 27 constituencies reporting results to the election board, 17 were in Addis Ababa and were all taken by the CUD with large majorities, Getahun said.

The capital, where Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has banned all demonstrations for one month, has 23 seats in parliament and the opposition claims to have won them all.

While Meles' Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party has conceded defeat in Addis Ababa it has claimed to have won a majority in parliament with at least 300 seats based on strong rural support.

The opposition, which accuses the EPRDF of massive vote rigging and fraud, says it has won at least 223 seats and on Friday warned of "grave consequences" if allegedly tainted results are released.

The election board was on Saturday to have released nationwide preliminary returns based on vote counts in more than 30 000 polling stations around the country.

But amid rising tension between the government and the opposition and overwhelmed by massive turnout of more than 90 percent of the country's 26 million voters, NEBE officials were mum on when the full preliminary totals might be released.


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