US urges free and fair Ethiopian polls

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AFP)  — The United States on Friday urged Ethiopia to ensure its parliamentary elections set for May are free and fair.

Opposition groups have accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party of repeated harassment in the run-up to the May 23 polls.

“The US representatives urged that measures be taken to ensure that the upcoming elections run freely and fairly,” said a statement by a US delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Karl Wycoff on a visit to Ethiopia.

“The government and ruling party must take their responsibilities seriously by creating an environment in which all parties feel confident in fully expressing their opinions and implementing their electoral strategies,” it added.

On Wednesday, the opposition coalition Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia accused the ruling party of the stabbing to death of one of its candidates.

The government has denied any involvement, but said Wednesday that a suspect was in custody for the murder.

Ethiopia’s polls will be the first since 2005 when disputed results sparked violence that claimed some 200 lives.