Heather Murdock, VOA | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ethiopia announced preliminary results for its 2010 national elections on Monday, revealing what appears to be a landslide victory for the current ruling party. Human Rights Watch and Ethiopian opposition parties say the legitimacy of the election was “undermined” by voter intimidation leading up to the election. Heather Murdock reports from Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), appears to have swept the country’s first parliamentary elections in five years, according to preliminary results. The chairman of the election board, Merga Bekana said the EPRDF is leading in every corner of the nation.
“Definitely, at this point EPRDF has [won], definitely,” said Merga Bekana. “In all regional states, as far as the provisional result is concerned EPRDF has [won].”
In the capital Addis Ababa, the EPRDF appears to have won 20 of the 23 seats. Five years ago, opposition parties took every seat in the city.
The EPRDF, led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has controlled Ethiopia since it ousted the former government in 1991, and subsequently swept three elections. In 2005, preliminary election results sparked violent protests that killed almost 200 people. More than 100 opposition leaders, activists and journalists were arrested. Nearly all of them were pardoned in 2007.
While government officials have hailed the elections as, “free, fair and peaceful,” Human Rights Watch and opposition party members say the governing party has gone from house to house intimidating voters. The right’s group accuses the EPRDF of threatening voters’ livelihoods and sometimes homes.
In response, the Ethiopian government released a statement accusing Human Rights Watch of “colonial arrogance.” It says the group wages a “relentless negative campaign” against countries that do not “succumb to their dictates.”
The government also criticized Human Rights Watch for releasing a statement about the polls before international election observers. The European Union is scheduled to release its preliminary report on the elections Tuesday.
Temesgen Zewdie, an opposition leader and candidate, appeared devastated by the loss. He says he has heard stories of voter intimidation, but he is not quite ready to condemn the elections.
“Some of our observers had earlier told us that they had been harassed by some individuals, and we have reported that to the election board,” said Temesgen Zewdie. “But I don’t know exactly if this is the cause for the disappointing results.”
But election officials say they have not heard these complaints. They say their statistics indicate a turnout of more than 90 percent, and that the elections were fair and the polling stations well run. Official election results are scheduled to be released next month.