WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States vowed Wednesday to press the Ethiopian government to make future elections more inclusive and warned that US-Ethiopian ties depended on tackling the problem.
The US government has already indicated it was “concerned” that Sunday’s elections — which gave long-time ruler Meles Zenawi a landslide win — appeared to fall short of global standards, even if they were largely peaceful.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley renewed pressure, urging the Ethiopian government to address not only the circumstances of the weekend elections but also years-long corruption.
“We have a broad and comprehensive relationship with Ethiopia, but we have expressed our concerns on democracy and governance directly to the government,” Crowley told reporters.
“Measures the Ethiopian government take following these elections will influence the future direction of US-Ethiopian relations.”
He urged Addis Ababa to strengthen its democratic institutions and offer a “level playing field” to electoral candidates free from intimidation and favoritism in order to ensure “more inclusive results.”
“To the extent that Ethiopia values the relationship with the United States, then we think they should heed this very direct and strong message,” Crowley said.
“We will continue to engage this government, but we will make clear that there are steps that it needs to take to improve democratic institutions.”
The State Department spokesman also expressed disappointment with pro-incumbent trends leading up to the elections that favored Meles’s party.
“A number of laws, regulations and procedures implemented since the previous parliamentary elections in 2005 created a clear and decisive advantage for the ruling party throughout the electoral process,” he said.
Meles earlier dismissed calls for a re-run after the main opposition bloc Medrek said Sunday’s polls were riddled with fraud and demanded fresh elections.
Medrek has so far won only one seat, according to preliminary polls that showed Meles’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party had taken 499 seats, in results from 536 constituencies.
The vast Horn of Africa nation has a 547-seat lower house and final results are to be released on June 21.