Washington: With preliminary results in Ethiopian general elections indicating that the ruling party bagged an overwhelming majority, the US has said freedom of choice of voters were "constrained" throughout the poll process.
"It is our assessment that throughout the electoral process, freedom of choice for voters was constrained by the actions and inactions of Ethiopian Government officials, the
National Elections Board of Ethiopia and the ruling political party and its cadres," State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters here.
"A number of laws, regulations, and procedures implemented since the previous parliamentary elections in 2005 created a clear and decisive advantage for the ruling party throughout the electoral process," Crowley said.
Noting that the US has a broad and comprehensive relationship with Ethiopia, Crowley said the US has expressed its concerns on democracy and governance directly to the
"Measures the Ethiopian Government takes following these elections will influence the future direction of US-Ethiopian relations.
It is important that Ethiopia move forward in strengthening its democratic institutions, and when elections are held, that it offer a level playing field to give everyone
a free opportunity to participate without fear or favour," he said.
Responding to a question, the spokesman said Ethiopia did not grant the US the ability to provide observers during the course of the actual election this weekend itself.
"But we have had concerns going over a number of years about Ethiopian tactics that have constrained rather than expanded the available political space," he said.
"So we're not surprised by this result. It's not really about how the election itself was conducted over the past weekend. We are grateful for that but the fact is that
over a number of years, we have seen actions taken that reduce the available choices for the Ethiopian people," he said.
"So moving forward, we will again be talking directly to the government and making clear what we feel it has to do to expand political space for more inclusive results in future elections," Crowley said.
To the extent that Ethiopia values the relationship with the US, then they should heed this very direct and strong message.
"We value the cooperation that we have with the Ethiopian Government on a variety - range of issues, including regional security, including climate change, for example. So
we will continue to engage this government but we will make clear that there are steps that it needs to take to improve democratic institutions," he observed.
First Published: Thursday, May 27, 2010, 15:08