Home | News    Thursday 16 June 2005

Ethiopian Election Board probes 200 parliamentary races

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, June 16, 2005 (AP) — Ethiopia’s electoral board has launched investigations into the results of almost 40% of parliamentary races following complaints of irregularities, the National Electoral Board chairman said Thursday.

Kemal Bedri, the chairman of the National Election Board of Ethiopia. (Reuters).

The decision follows 36 deaths last week in demonstrations by opposition supporters angered that the government had claimed victory based on provisional results. Wednesday, the U.K. froze GBP20 million of aid because of the unrest.

Kemal Bedri told The Associated Press that after reviewing the complaints lodged by political parties, about 200 results out of 524 merited investigation. The election board can order fresh elections or re-counts if necessary.

He said the board should be able to announce the exact number of complaints and the breakdown on Friday.

The election board had been reviewing complaints from rival political parties in 299 of the 524 constituencies contested during the May 15 polls. Elections for the remaining 23 seats of the 547-member parliament will be held in August.

The ruling party has so far won 302 seats and its allies 21, according to provisional results. Opposition parties won 194 seats, up from just 12 in the last election in 2000.

The parties have lodged 61 types of complaints, including gunmen intimidating voters, people being forced to vote for certain parties, ballot boxes stuffed or disappearing and the number of ballots exceeding the number of registered voters.

"What action we take will depend on the outcome of the investigations," electoral board spokesman Getahun Amogne said. "We can order re-elections or recounts."

The election board has set up 20 teams to investigate the complaints, which will include members of the political parties who raised concerns and the winner of the polls. Observers from the African Union, European Union and the Carter Center will be invited to monitor the process.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, known as one of the continent’s more progressive leaders, has pledged that his government would introduce greater democracy. Many saw the polls as a test of his commitment to reform.

Final results were due to be announced on June 8, but have been delayed a month because of the massive number of complaints over the provisional results. Kemal said the investigations are expected to be completed before July 8.

The provisional results were based on vote counting that took place at about 34,000 polling stations in the country. The E.U. has said delays in releasing the results raised the prospect of fraud.

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