Election candidate murdered: Ethiopian opposition

Tue Mar 2, 2010 4:16pm GMT

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Six men stabbed to death an Ethiopian opposition election candidate on Tuesday and the murder may have been provoked by his anti-government campaign, the main opposition coalition said.

The eight-party coalition, Medrek, said another of its candidates was beaten on Monday by armed men believed by locals to be from the Ethiopian army.

"Our candidate Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes was attacked this morning by six people and he was stabbed to death," former Ethiopian president Negaso Gidada, who joined the opposition after falling out with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said.

Aregawi was a parliamentary candidate for Medrek member party, Arena Tigray. He was arrested twice while campaigning, the opposition said.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said both incidents were personal and a suspect had been arrested for Aregawi's murder.

"He was killed in a personal row outside his constituency," Shimeles said. "The beating was also a personal brawl. But Medrek are free to lodge their complaint with the electoral board for investigation."

The Horn of Africa country's election will be the first since a government victory in 2005 was disputed by the opposition. About 200 street protesters were killed by security forces and the main opposition leaders imprisoned.

Analysts say Medrek -- or the Forum -- is the main threat to the 19-year-old government of Meles, but his ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition is expected to win the May 23 poll.   Continued...

<p>Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi speaks to the media at his office in Addis Ababa, April 13, 2009. REUTERS/Irada Humbatova</p>
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