Ethiopia : Ethiopians vote, ruling party expected to keep grip on power

AP
Published on May24,2015

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopians voted Sunday in national and regional elections in which the ruling party is expected to maintain its iron-clad grip on power.

Some opposition leaders said their members had been harassed and beaten up while trying to cast their ballots.

A spokesman for the opposition Blue party, Yonathan Tesfaye, told The Associated Press that Sunday’s election was “full of games,” apparently referring to electoral malpractices.

“We have received lots of complaints from our observers who were banned from observing the election process. The government has been using a number of techniques to harass them all day,” Yonathan said.

But the Ethiopian News Agency cited African Union as saying the voting had been mostly “orderly.” Shimelis Kemal, a state minister at the Government Communications Affairs office, said voter turnout was more than 85 percent and that the process had been peaceful.

The Election Board said late Sunday that polling will be extended until Monday in some universities and colleges where there had been a shortage of voting materials. Provisional results are expected in a week but final results won’t be released before June 22. More than 36 million voters were registered to vote in this East African nation of about 90 million people.

In 2010, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front won 99.6 percent of all parliamentary seats. Only one opposition lawmaker won a seat in an election that watchdog groups said was marred by intimidation and the harassment of opposition activists.

Human Rights Watch called that victory “the culmination of the government’s five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for political dissent and independent criticism.”

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, a former university professor-turned-politician, has been leading the country since the death in 2012 of strongman Meles Zenawi, who built the ruling coalition into a powerful political organization. These are Ethiopia’s first elections since his death.

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This story has been corrected to show that Ethiopia has more than 36 million registered voters, not more than 38 million.

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