Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Elections to be repeated in 20 constituencies

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ADDIS ABABA, 25 July (IRIN) - Ethiopia is to repeat elections in at least 20 of the 524 constituencies contested in the disputed 15 May polls, the chairman of the National Election Board (NEB) said on Monday.

Kemal Bedri said the fresh vote would take place in mid-August. Investigators, he added, had found evidence of abuses in more than 100 polling stations in these constituencies.

The number of constituencies where the polls would repeated could increase as investigations into election fraud continued in 40 extra constituencies, Kemal added.

"We don't have all the investigation details in but at the moment we will hold re-elections in around 20 constituencies," he said.

The election board was also awaiting results of investigations in 139 constituencies - but had thrown out complaints by political parties in 75 others.

Kemal blamed delays in releasing results on the poll probe investigation process, which he said was new to the country, where the two previous elections have been marred by irregularities.

Opposition parties have dismissed the probe as a "complete failure", and accused the NEB of bias in favour of the ruling party - a claim dismissed by the board and government.

The government has in turn accused the opposition of trying to hold up the result.

"Opposition parties like Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) are engaged in prolonging the complaint investigation process, and extensive defamatory campaigns targeting the legal status of the NEB," the ministry of information said on Saturday.

"It is impossible to hold the result of the elections indefinitely," the ministry added. "It must be finally concluded within a reasonable time limit."

At least 40 people were killed and thousands arrested in protests following claims of massive fraud during the polls. So far 307 results have been declared while 23 seats in the 547-member parliament will be contested in Ethiopia's Somali Region where elections were delayed.

The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front has so far won 139 seats while the main opposition group, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy has 93 seats. Another opposition group, the United Ethiopian Democratic Front secured 42 seats.

The elections were seen as a key test of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's commitment to greater democratic reforms. Britain froze =A320 million in aid after the demonstrations, while Washington and the European Union have called on the government to respect human rights and urged an independent inquiry into the killings.

[ENDS]

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