Ethiopia ruling regime celebrates controversial election win
Addis Ababa: Ethiopia's long-time ruler Meles Zenawi on Tuesday celebrated a landslide election victory which the opposition slammed as fraudulent, amid reservations from European observers and the United States.
Tens of thousands of ruling party supporters thronged a city square after the electoral commission released preliminary results showed the ruling coalition had a wide lead across the country.
Meles, who has led Ethiopia since 1991, urged the opposition to accept the results and desist from causing trouble.
"I believe that the people of Ethiopia... have unequivocally sent a clear message to the opposition parties in our country," he told a cheering crowd.
"They must accept the decision of our great and proud people and not become tools of external forces that don't have the right to act as the ultimate judges of our elections."
Meles' ruling EPRDF party won 499 seats out of 536 constituencies whose results were announced Tuesday electoral commission chief Merga Bekana.
The rest were taken by other political groups. The country has a 547-member lower house.
"Only one out of 536 was (won by) Medrek and that was in Addis Ababa," said Merga, referring to the opposition coalition.
But the opposition charged the 55-year-old prime minister had rigged his way to re-election in Sunday's polls.
"I don't see any reason why we should accept the results that were completely fraudulent," said Merara Gudina, one of Medrek's leaders.
"They took over all aspects of the electoral administration, including the count," he said, in reference to the EPRDF.
In 2005, the opposition scored its best showing ever and claimed Meles stole the vote, sparking violence that left 200 people dead and drew international criticism of the Horn of Africa's ruling regime.
The European Union observation mission on Tuesday took a tougher line than on election day and said the campaign and the polls were marked by restrictions on political freedom and the unfair use of state resources.
Thijs Berman, the head of the EU monitoring team, said the polls were "marred by narrowing political space and (an) uneven political field."
"The separation between the ruling party and the administration was blurred in many cases at the local level," Berman added. "The EU observed the use of state resources for the campaign."
He said voting "fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties."