Ethiopia opposition mounts court challenge to election

Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:01pm GMT
 

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia's main opposition group on Tuesday filed a court case against the country's electoral board for rejecting its demand to rerun elections criticised by the European Union and the United States.

The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allies won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament last month, giving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in power since 1991, another five years in charge.

The country's biggest opposition coalition, the eight-party Medrek, won just a single seat. Medrek and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) then called for a re-run claiming pre-poll intimidation and some vote rigging.

The National Electoral Board (NEB), however, rejected their request, saying neither party provided any hard evidence to back up their complaints.

"We have lodged this appeal because the manner in which the NEB handled our grievances was very irregular," Medrek chairman Beyene Petros told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We submitted an 87-page document of evidence but they never invited us to explain or to present witnesses. The rejection was a face-saving measure."

SUPREME COURT

The AEUP also lodged its case with the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The aftermath of the May 23 poll is being watched by Western diplomats in a country that is a growing destination for investment and Washington's key ally in the Horn of Africa, where it is seen as standing against Islamic militancy.

At Ethiopia's last elections in 2005, an opposition coalition claimed a fix after the EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats. Riots erupted in the capital on two separate occasions. Security forces killed 193 protesters and seven policemen died.

A European Union observer mission said last month's poll was marred by the EPRDF's use of state resources for campaigning, putting the opposition at a disadvantage ahead of the vote, but they said this did not mean the count itself was invalid.

The United States said the election failed to meet international standards and the government's next steps could shape the future of U.S. ties to the country.

<p>A supporter of Ethiopia's Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) holds a portrait of Birtukan Mideksa during a demonstration in the capital Addis Ababa, April 16, 2009. REUTERS/Irada Humbatova</p>
 
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