Election board says conducive election environment exists
By Kaleyesus Bekele, Reporter Saturday 22 MAY 2010
The major Ethiopian opposition parties are not happy at all with the pre-election process leading to tomorrow’s national and regional elections.
Parties such as the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) and the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Forum) accuse the government of harassing their candidates and public observers. The parties also expressed dissatisfaction with the news coverage by the state-owned Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency.
At a press conference held on Wednesday, Mamushet Amare, Secretary-General of AEUP and head of the party’s youth affairs, said that the ruling party has continued to intimidate its candidates in violation of the electoral code of conduct. “Some have withdrawn from the election because of the threats. The ruling party also persuades candidates to withdraw their candidacy by offering them inducements,” a statement issued by AEUP said. According to Mamushet, voter registration cards were taken from supporters of opposition parties in various regions.
“You cannot talk about democratic elections while public observers are detained and candidates are intimidated,” Chairman of AEUP, Hailu Shawel, told The Reporter. He said AEUP had lodged repeated complaints but to no avail. He added that he was disappointed with the coverage the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency gave to election campaigns. The chairman said that the agency did not cover AEUP’s major meetings held in Gondar, Wolayata and Gofa Sawla.
Professor Beyene Petros, chairman of Forum, said that his party was unable to hold a major rally on Thursday, the last day of election campaign. According to him, Forum was prevented from staging a rally at Meskal Square by government authorities. “We were only allowed to use roving trucks for campaigning,” he added.
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) on its part said that it had created a conducive environment for the elections to be held tomorrow. Briefing local and foreign reporters on Thursday, Professor Merga Bekana said that he believed that the board had crated a conducive environment. He indicated that the board had handled all the complaints lodged by political parties. “We give serious attention to each complaint.”
Merga added that the board had been restructured and that adequate staff were recruited. According to him, a series of trainings were offered to electoral officers on the electoral law.
The Director General of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Agency, Desta Tesfaw, said that adequate air time and newspaper column were allotted to all contesting parties. However, he pointed out that none of the political parties were able to fully utilize the opportunity they were given. “There is no party that used 100 percent of the allocated air time and newspaper column,” Desta said. He revealed that although 90 hours of TV air time, 495 hours of radio air time and 849 newspaper columns were allocated for the parties free of charge, only 61 percent of the time allocated for TV, 51 percent for radio and 40 percent of newspaper columns were utilized.