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Ethiopia to Hold New Election at 6 Stations


Ethiopia's National Electoral Board has announced that it plans to hold a new election this weekend at six polling stations where irregularities were reported during Sunday's vote.

National Electoral Board spokesman Getahun Belay tells VOA the six stations are located in the regions of Oromia, Afar, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, covering an estimated 9,000 voters. He says the repeat election, slated for Sunday, is needed in those stations mostly because of voting irregularities.

"For example, one of them was found to put pre-marked ballots in the ballot box," said Mr. Getahun. "He is an election officer himself, but he was stuffing ballot papers by putting marks for a certain party."

Election officials count ballot papers in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after Sunday's third election in Ethiopia's 3,000-year history Monday, May 16, 2005
Ethiopia's parliamentary elections were held May 15, the third since the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front took power in 1991.

More than 300 international observers, including more than 150 observers from the European Union and 50 observers from the United States visited some of the 31,000 polling stations on election day. Although the observers reported irregularities, and expressed concern about allegations of intimidation, they said they were satisfied with the process overall.

The campaign manager for the main opposition coalition, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, Berhanu Nega, disagrees.

Mr. Berhanu says his group believes irregularities at the six polling stations holding re-elections this weekend are examples of many more instances of ballot box stuffing and other problems. "We have lodged a formal complaint for a lot more. We are talking about in the 80's and hundreds of not stations [but] constituencies that either a re-election or some kind of serious investigation has to take place," he said.

The electoral board is in the process of releasing results from seats primarily in the capital, Addis Ababa.

By early Friday afternoon, the board reported that the opposition had won 15 out of 23 contested seats.

The Coalition for Unity and Democracy's Mr. Berhanu says he is pleased with the results in the capital so far. "To a certain degree we have expected it. Really, what is the real surprise is the magnitude of the victory. The numbers is quite astounding," he said. "By the way, that has been confirmed also in almost all urban centers of the country."

The opposition is widely expected to win most, if not all, seats in Addis Ababa. The ruling party has already conceded defeat in the capital. Final election results are due on June 8.

During the parliamentary elections, voters cast their ballots for candidates vying for the country's 547 seats.

International observers hailed the elections as a landmark for democracy in Ethiopia.

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