Friday, May 20, 2005

Opposition Warns Ruling Party to Lift State of Emergency

The Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), the major Ethiopian opposition party which made a clean sweep of all 23 parliamentary seats in the nation's capital last week, warned the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of the dangers of trying to rob the votes of the Ethiopian people, and demanded the state of emergency be lifted.

In a press statement released on Thursday, CUD called on the regime to lift the state of emergency which has denied the people from exercising their constitutional rights, and to desist from disseminating falsified reports. The opposition, which also made major gains in most of the country's towns and villages alike, also called on the ruling party to suspend remaining vote counting process until opposition members were allowed to attend as observers.

CUD, and the other major opposition the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) have so far taken 206 of 263 constituencies, and are poised to form a coalition government. Meles Zenawi's party controls the media, and a news blackout of opposition developments has hit the nation of 70 million people.

Meanwhile according to IRIN, UEDF Deputy Chairman Beyene Petros said, "The government is tampering with the ballot boxes to make sure it wins," and complained that across the country, opposition observers were being prevented from witnessing the tally.

Beyene said that security forces were being used to interfere with the vote counting, an assertion rejected by the government.

A senior international election observer told IRIN on Wednesday, however, that they were “concerned” about delays in polling stations announcing the count.

"There are many polling stations out in the countryside who have not published their results as they should have," the observer said. "In some places it is because the counting took longer. In some places the counting has been done, so why aren’t the results published? It has been raised with the National Election Board [NEB]. The longer we wait, the more anxious people will get."

CUD Deputy Chairman Berhanu Nega told reporters, "The trend so far clearly indicates that the CUD would emerge as the winner with sufficient seats to form a government."

He said the results from about 70 other seats were known, but the opposition had not contested those constituencies.


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