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Ethiopia's Ruling Party Wins Repeat Polls

Ethiopia's ruling party won all the seats in repeat polls, Ethiopian election officials announced Friday. The second round of polling was held August 21 after claims of voter fraud by the country's ruling party and opposition groups.

Ethiopia's ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, took all 31 seats in the parliamentary districts where the country's electoral officials found voting irregularities.

The latest election victory gives the ruling party about 59 percent of Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament, or at least 366 seats.

Opposition parties have won about 161 seats, a huge gain for them, considering they took only 12 seats in the 2000 elections.

Still, following the May 15 polls, opposition groups called for repeat elections in 229 parliamentary districts in which they found evidence of electoral violations. Many of those claims were backed by international observers, who criticized Ethiopia's elections for widespread voting irregularities.

Berhane Mewa, a representative for Ethiopia's main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, says he's encouraged by opposition party gains, but the disputed elections highlighted some of the pitfalls of Ethiopia's democratic process. "It's clear that the opposition party has done very well in this election. Now the question is whether the people's votes will be respected or not, whether there will be a sustainable democratic process in the country or not, whether power will be transferred in a peaceful and democratic manner in this country or not. It's not a question of getting more seats or less seats, it's a question of democratizing our country," he said.

At a news conference earlier this week in the capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused the European Union's election monitoring team of bias. The EU monitors reported last month they found evidence of widespread election fraud, intimidation of opposition leaders and human rights abuses during the post-election protests in which at least 36 people were killed as police allegedly fired into the crowds.

In a lengthy editorial in the state-run Ethiopian Herald newspaper, Prime Minister Zenawi blasted the EU's election monitoring chief, Ana Gomes, saying she was acting like a "self-appointed colonial viceroy."

Mr. Mewa, in criticizing the prime minister's response to the EU said, "He has not reacted, actually. He has overreacted against the European Union. But the important thing here is that the European Union doesn't have any vested interest in Ethiopian politics."

Early results from delayed elections in Ethiopia's eastern Somali Region show the country's ruling party ally, the Somali People's Democratic Party, took 19 seats. Results are still not in for four other seats. An official for Ethiopia's election board says those results are due Monday.