The European Union has issued its long-awaited final report on last May’s legislative elections in Ethiopia. The EU says the elections fell short of international democratic standards, and the post-election period was marked by a rapid deterioration of human rights. The report says the pre-election period saw a number of positive developments, and voting on may 15th was conducted in a peaceful and largely orderly manner. But it says the counting and was marred by what it calls irregular practices, confusion and a lack of transparency.
The report says violence during the post-election period claimed the lives of at least 84 people and resulted in the arrest of thousands. Ethiopia’s National Electoral Commission declared Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party the victor in the May 15th elections. But the opposition claimed it was robbed of victory through massive electoral fraud.
Ana Gomes headed the European Union’s electoral observer mission to Ethiopia. She told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje the final report was meticulously compiled and based on facts. She says she hopes the EU report will “persuade European, American, African, U.N. and other responsible leaders to reflect on what’s been happening in Ethiopia.” Ms. Gomes says “we have in Ethiopia a ruling class adept at using politically correct rhetoric pretending they want democracy.” “But judging from the facts as documented in the report,” she says, “that is not happening.”
Ms. Gomes credits the government for initially opening up the political space and creating a pre-election environment where the opposition freely discussed its platform. “That,” she says, “is an achievement that should be recognized.” The European parliamentarian says once the voting took place and the counting started, “the whole process was sharply derailed.” She urges European and U.S. governments to act on the basis of their values, and not use the war on terror as an excuse to overlook the “oppressive measures” being taken by the Ethiopian government.