Ethiopia to kick off election campaign in December

Ethiopia's last elections in 2005 ended in chaos with Meles Zenawi's party accused of vote rigging
Ethiopia's last elections in 2005 ended in chaos with Meles Zenawi's party accused of vote rigging

Thursday, 29 October 2009, (AFP) ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Ethiopia’s election campaign will kick off on December 8, a government official said on Thursday, despite protests by an opposition umbrella group over a newly-agreed electoral code.

“The elections will kick off on December 8. Voting day will be May 23 and the results will be finally declared on June 21,” government spokesman Bereket Simon told journalists.

The elections will be the first since 2005, when deadly violence sparked by allegations of vote rigging by the ruling party killed nearly 200 people.

Three opposition groups announced on Wednesday that they had agreed with the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front on an electoral code after a two-months of discussion.

The code sets out campaigning, voting and party symbol guidelines as well as how to deal with intimidation and violence, abuse of office and corruption.

It also includes the setting up of a panel to handle election disputes.

The Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia, a coalition of eight parties, had shunned the talks however, arguing that key elements on security and freedom of expression and movement were not included in the code.

Bereket said the group would still be allowed to register candidates, but warned that any violations of the code would incur penalties.

“Signing is not a precondition for registering. But if they transgress it (the code), it will be a transgression of the rule of the land,” he said.

Bereket said international observers would be invited for next year’s vote.

The 2005 vote, the country’s third pluralist elections since the 1991 ouster of a Soviet-backed regime, was widely condemned as having fallen short of international standards.

193 civilians and six police officers died in post-election violence after opposition complaints of widespread fraud.