The final results in Ethiopia's parliamentary election may be delayed because of hundreds of complaints and allegations of fraud filed by the candidates, the National Electoral Board spokesperson said on Friday.
The board was scheduled to release the final results of the May 15 election on June 8. New elections have already been scheduled for 16 of the country's 34 000 polling stations because of irregularities.
"Once investigations have been started they have to be completed and so we may be forced to extend beyond that time," said spokesperson Getahun Amogne. The election board has received complaints in almost 200 constituencies.
The main opposition party has lodged complaints in 139 of 527 constituencies, while the ruling party has raised concerns over irregularities in more than 50 seats. Getahun added the political parties will have until June 3 to provide evidence of fraud or their complaints will be scrapped.
Provisional results show the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front has 209 seats so far, with affiliated parties gaining a further 12.
But opposition parties have made huge gains from the 12 seats they hold in the current parliament of 547 seats, so far taking 142 of the constituencies counted.
Twenty seats are filled by appointment by the ruling party.
The European Union (EU) criticised the electoral board on Wednesday for delays in releasing the vote saying it raised the prospect of fraud. In a statement, the EU observers said the trickle of results, claims of victory by the government and the opposition, and the denial of access to the state-run media for government opponents was threatening the electoral process.
In Washington, scores of Ethiopians demonstrated on Thursday in front of the state department, demanding United States (US) action in response to alleged irregularities in Ethiopian parliamentary elections.
Some of the protesters accused authorities of a variety of misdeeds, including killing or jailing members of the opposition.
State department spokesperson Richard Boucher said he had no overall assessment of the conduct of the elections but agreed the charges need to be looked into.
Boucher said the US has made clear its view that the vote count and other aspects of the process "need to be done in a transparent and democratic manner".
Washington has a large Ethiopian community made up of people who fled the country in the mid-1970s after Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown and their descendants.