By BEREKET DIRIBA, Correspondent MAY 30, 2015
Over 32 million Ethiopians cast their votes on Sunday’s general elections, just the fifth in the nation’s long history.
Many who hoped to see more than one opposition seat in the House of People’s Representatives — as was the case with the outgoing Parliament — witnessed what may only be the worst.
Dreams of Parliament seats are fading for the opposition following the electoral board’s announcement that none of them won any of the 442 seats counted so far out of the 547 up for grabs. The ruling party swept all seats declared in the preliminary results released on the eve of the May 28 victory day.
The results for the remaining 105 seats are set to be announced on June 22. Although nothing different is expected as the opposition is in the rout even in areas they anticipated to win.
Ahead of the release of preliminary results, opposition groups have been crying out multiple allegations of fraud and government crackdown throughout the election process.
Leaders of the opposition MEDREK coalition said their observers were denied entry to polling stations in many places, especially in southern parts of the country.
In parts of Oromia region, opposition supporters clashed with security forces. Two people were killed in Midakengi and Kofale towns. There were also other causalities and multiple arrests.
Opposition leader, Merera Gudina (PhD) of MEDREK, dismissed the election and questioned the impartiality of the board as one that cannot guarantee a fair election.
“The electoral board was a cover and the election was hijacked by the local cadres of the government. What occurred was not an election, rather a scramble of the people’s vote,” Merera said.
On election day, the alleged failure of the electoral board to deliver enough voting cards to some polling stations at universities caused confrontation between students and police. Students at Bule Hora University expressed their anger by smashing university properties.
“Students from Ambo and Wollega were told polling stations ran out of voting cards while many of them were waiting to cast their votes. Things turned out violent and they started to smash vehicles and the university president’s office windows until the federal police force arrived and calmed the chaos,’’ said Nardos, a student at Bule Hora University who didn’t want to disclose her full name.
Officials of Semayawi Party, who held a press conference yesterday, also categorically rejected the fairness and credibility of the elections. Like MEDREK, they accused the ruling front of wide-spread fraud and harassment before and during the elections.
“Never mind of being a free and fair election, this year’s vote took place in a very fraudulent and repressive system, far worse than previous elections; which is unlawful, partial, and not credible. Semayawi neither accepts the process of the election nor its results,” the party concluded in its press statement.
The government denied these allegations and called on opposition leaders to accept the election results.
Earlier this week, Minister of Communication Redwan Hussein said the election was peaceful and democratic. He asserted that the fairness of an election must not be judged by its results but by the process, a point of contention the opposition have already raised.
“The registration of 36.8 million voters and the subsequent 90% voter turnout indicates the strength of the country to hold elections. The people would have not registered in millions if they had no trust in the election,” Redwan said.
Head of the 2005 European Union election observer mission and the strong critic of the Ethiopian government, Ms. Ana Gomez, slammed this year’s vote calling it ‘a fake election’ that failed to fulfill basic requirements of a democratic process.
The only foreign observing mission in this year’s poll however came from the African Union (AU), headed by the former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba. His team released a statement saying the election was calm and gave people the opportunity to choose their leaders.
However, he mentioned that in some polling stations his team witnessed electioneering, polling stations opening ahead of schedule and the absence of serialized election ballot papers entirely.
The statement of the AU observers came only after visiting 356 polling stations out of the 43,500 election polls throughout Ethiopia.