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Ethiopian Opposition Ponders Peaceful Protests

The leader of Ethiopia’s main opposition bloc, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, says it has held internal discussions about peaceful means of protest. This, in case disputes over this month’s parliamentary elections are not resolved. Both the ruling EPRDF party and the opposition say they’re ahead in the counting for the 547-seat body. The government has issued a temporary ban on any public protests.

Hailu Shawel is the chairman of the CUD. He told VOA English to Africa reporter William Eagle his party has discussed such measures as prayer vigils, peaceful public demonstrations and stay-at-home strikes. In response to a reporter’s question yesterday, Mr. Hailu said he personally would support an opposition boycott of the new parliament if the seats did not reflect the will of the people.

The government says it has carried the regions of Tigray, Amhara, Oromiya and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s States. Mr. Hailu says he agrees that the ruling party likely won in its stronghold of Tigray, but doubts it took the others. He says there are too many parties in Oromiya for the government to have won there, and opposition to the government is strong in the south and in Amhara state.

Mr. Hailu says he would support a transparent inquiry into the opposition complaints – one, he says that would include a "tri-partite” grouping made up of all parties, international observers and the electoral board. He recommends that such a body oversee either a recount or a re-vote in some areas, and said the opposition would support its findings.

Mr. Hailu said another issue that needs to be resolved with the government is the arrest of hundreds of opposition poll observers.