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Ethiopian Opposition Figure Appeals for Unity in Future Elections

Election officials close the last ballot box at a polling station in Addis Ababa's historic district at the end of voting day, 23 May 2010

Seye Abreha calls on other opposition parties to bury their differences, form coalition to challenge PM Zenawi’s ruling party

The Vice Chairman of Ethiopia’s opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice has called on other opposition parties to bury their differences and form a coalition to challenge Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party in future elections.

Seye Abreha said Ethiopia’s Electoral Board was an accomplice in rigging the May 23 poll in which it declared the ruling Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) winner with a landslide victory.

“I think the Electoral Board was itself an accomplice in what was going on with regards to this election in our country and that is why they did not care to look into our complaints and the declaration they gave today [Monday] is not unexpected,” he said.

Abreha’s comments come after the electoral board confirmed Monday the electoral victory of the ruling EPRDF winning 545 seats in Ethiopia’s 547-member parliament.

Several opposition groups rejected the results of the election claiming it was fraught with voter irregularities and demanded a re-run. The opposition also said their supporters were being intimidated and harassed by the agents of the government ahead of the vote, a charge the ruling party denies.

Both Washington and the European Union accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government of narrowing Ethiopia’s political space. In a statement, the Obama administration accused the Ethiopian government of repression, harassment and intimidation. It criticized the election process, saying an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place.

Vice Chairman Abreha said the government has wiped out any democratic gains Ethiopia has made over the years.

“It’s unfortunate that we are going back to where we were 20 years ago after a 19 years experiment with multi-party democracy,” Abreha said.

Local media quoted Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as saying that Ethiopia’s law allows for parties to demand a new vote, if they can prove in court that the ballot was fraudulent. But, he says the election was successful and voters were able to freely choose candidates without intimidation or coercion.

Abreha said there is need for the opposition parties to regroup.

“It requires pausing, thinking and re-thinking and re-inventing the opposition of this country again. Whatever policy differences there might be among the opposition, I think we have to come together on the minimum issues of democracy and rule of law. There is no way we can proceed to other issues unless these fundamentals are tackled jointly,” Abreha said.