Ethiopian Party Accused of Intimidation Before Election – By JASON McLURE, New York Times (ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia)

May 23rd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopians went to the polls on Sunday to choose a new Parliament, with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party expected to sweep the vote and extend its 19-year rule, after a campaign marred by widespread complaints of harassment and intimidation of the opposition.

Leaders from Medrek, the largest opposition coalition, and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party, said the government had threatened to withhold American food aid from farmers in poor regions and barred opposition supporters from government microfinance programs in an effort to win votes. They also accused the government of blocking opposition monitors from observing voting in several areas of the country as a prelude to rigging results.

“The whole thing is a farce,” said Hailu Shawel, chairman of the All Ethiopia Unity Party. “In the countryside our observers are chased away by the militia. Our people are not allowed into the polling stations.”

Medrek opposition leaders have reported that three of their activists were killed during the campaign and hundreds more beaten and arrested.

The government has responded by accusing the opposition of fabricating allegations of irregularities and harassment in order to undermine the election. “The whole objective has been to discredit the process; that’s why they are crying wolf,” said Bereket Simon, a senior ruling party official and minister of communication affairs for the government. “We’ve prepared in a very clear and transparent way. We have also told our members that the ruling party doesn’t need any force or fraud to win this election.”

Thijs Berman, the chief of a European Union election observation mission, estimated that turnout was greater than 70 percent and that Election Day had passed peacefully. He said his team was investigating opposition complaints of irregularities and would release a report on the pre-election period on Tuesday.

An electoral sweep by the ruling party is likely to heighten strains between Mr. Meles and the Obama administration. The United States gave Ethiopia, an ally in fighting Islamic extremists in neighboring Somalia, more than $937 million in direct aid last year, much of it to help feed Ethiopians who depend on foreign food assistance to survive.

In spite of this, Mr. Meles’s government has jammed local-language news broadcasts by the United States government-owned Voice of America radio service and barred American and other foreign diplomats from traveling outside Addis Ababa, the capital, to monitor the vote.

People are afraid to openly support the opposition for fear of losing out on government services such as housing, said Getaneh Asfaw, 33, a manager at an Addis Ababa real estate company who said he voted for Medrek in spite of threats from local officials and ruling party supporters.

“If you are building a house, they will find a reason to stop you,” he said, in an interview outside a voting station in Addis Ababa, as a woman who identified herself as a local government official hovered nearby. “Even me, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me after this interview.”

  1. Drama
    | #1

    THIEF BERMAN SAYS THE ELECTION WAS QUITE. QUITE DOES NOT MEAN FREE AND FAIR. IS THIS BRAINWASHING WITHOUT LYING? YES, IT IS

  2. Drama
    | #2

    IT IS NOT TRUE TO SAY PEOPLE DON’T VOTE FOR THE OPPOSITION BECAUSE OF PRE-INTIMIDATION. OBVIOUSLY, THEY MAY HAVE BEEN WORRIED, BUT THEY STILL WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR THE OPPOSITION UNDER SIMPLE HARRASMENT DURING THE ELECTION DAY. THE FACT IS THERE WAS INTIMIDATION AND BEATINGS DURING THE ELECTION. THE FACTS ARE THERE; ALL THE ABUSE YOU CAN HAVE BY THE DICTATORIAL REGIME IN PLACES WHERE THERE WERE NO WATCHERS. AGAIN THIS IS THE REASON THE FOREIGN MEDIAS SAID THE ELECTIONS WERE QUITE (THE BRAINWASHING WORD OF ELECTION 2010) QUITE, QUITE, QUITE, QUITE, QUITE. THE TRUTH IS THEY WERE NOT FREE AND FAIR. SO COME OUT WITH THE TRUTH THIEF BERMAN. DON’T WASTE OUR TIME.

  3. Assta B. Gettu
    | #3

    The chief priests advise the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb to say to the public: “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep,” and we will assure the governor your reports are accurate (Matthew 8:12-13). Here the guards represent Meles’ cadres; the empty tomb represents the ballot box of the opposition party; the chief priests represent the ballot box inspectors; and the governor represents Meles Seitanawi. All of them – the priests, the guards, and the governor – are damned liars. So are the Woyanne cadres, the inspectors, and Meles Seitanawi. The boxes for the opposition party may be empty now like the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. The ballots in those boxes may have been stolen during night time; however, the Woyanne cadres, the inspectors, and Meles him self are denying nothing has happened to the ballot boxes of the opposition party.

    Meles cadres from the beginning of the campaign until the end have been harassing, intimidating, and even killing some members of the opposition party, and when such crimes are reported to Meles, he, as usual denies such crimes have ever been committed. He would say that it is some members of the opposing party who steal ballots and create confusions among his parties.

    Meles with his awesome Tigrean military power and false propaganda has won the election, and no doubt about his victory. Even if by some miraculous events the opposition wins, Washington and Great Britain would be reluctant to recognize and admit the defeat of Meles Seitanawi, their obedient and subservient domestic servant. They fear, without Meles, Al Qaida will bomb London and Washington. They believe from the bottoms of their hearts that Meles is the one who has curved the terrorist movements in east Africa as well as in the rest of the world. They don’t care what Meles, their staunch ally does to the Ethiopian people and how he discriminates, but how he favors only his own tribes – the Tegarues.

    Now the election is over, and the winner, as it was predicted, is the same evil person, Meles Seitanawi, Ethiopians must swallow their grievances and stomach the election results whether it is sweeter than honey in their mouths and bitter in their stomach. They have to live with it for another five years. It is sad!

    After the spirit of Meles found Meles clean and neat, he went back to Mekelle to cast Meles’ ballot, and when it came back from Mekelle, he brought with him “… seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man (Meles) is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation,” the generation that cast its ballots in the wrong ballot-box of Meles Seitanawi.

    To appease the desires of the evil spirits that possessed him, Meles is willing to sacrifice more Ethiopian bloods, and to satisfy the needs of foreigners, he is going to sell more lands to the Arabs and create more border conflicts with his neighbors, especially with Sudan and Somalia.

    How to get out of this mess before Meles’ term is over is not an easy task, because we cannot fight with Americans; we cannot fight with Europeans – all of them are Meles’ allies. Yes, we can fight with Meles and win easily, and we could have done it long time age if the Americans and the Europeans have been on our side in stead of on our enemy’s side.

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