Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ethiopians Go to Poll to Elect Federal, Regional Legislators

Ethiopian voters went to poll on Sunday in the country's two separate elections to elect representatives to the 547-seat House of People's Representatives (HPR) and eight regional councils.

Polling stations nationwide opened at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) and will close at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT).

Some 26.5 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballotsin more than 38,000 polling stations across the Horn of Africa country with a population over 74 million. Each polling station will process up to 1,500 voters.

Voters were issued with two ballot papers each, a blue one for the HPR and a green one for their regional council. They marked the ballot papers in a secret voting booth. They will elect only one among the candidates for the HPR, while the number of candidates for regional councils vary according to the number of seats in the councils.

According to electoral officials, voters who are disabled, elderly, pregnant and newly wed couples will vote in advance of others in polling stations. Blind people marked ballot papers withthe help of an individual, and explanations were provided to the hearing-impaired voters in sign language until good communication was achieved.

Voters had their thumbs marked with purple ink which couldn't be washed off, a measure aimed at guarding against multiple voting.They put an "X" or "." mark on the space in their ballot papers corresponding to the names and symbols of candidates who they support. The balloting was in secret and voters were not obliged to reveal who they voted for.

Elections in the southeastern Somali state will take place in August. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), which is responsible for the supervision of all elections in Ethiopia's federal and state constituencies, says the elections there have been deferred as the pastoralist way of life of the Somali people requires intensive use of NEBE's resources.


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