No legitimacy Unless Through Free and Fair Election – Ethiocan.org (Calgary, Canada)
The Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Party/Tigreans People Liberation Front (EPRDF/TPLF) claims that it has won a national election that was held on May 23, 2010. The ruling government has already declared that it has won almost 99.6 % of the 548 seats in parliament even before the election board makes its final declaration of the results. We believe that an election that is held where all the elements of a free and fair election are not in place is not credible and acceptable as a democratic election. Accordingly, a government that comes out of a non-democratic election is not a legitimate one that the civilized world should deal with.
Both pre and post election evidence demonstrates that the election was not free and fair. In the pre-election period, opposition parties were not allowed to operate freely. The EPRDF/TPLF called rallies in various cities while it denied a permit to the primary opposition party’s call for a public rally in Addis Ababa at the end of the election campaign. There is evidence that the government “disbanded the leadership of the opposition and undercut its ability to undertake any effective challenge” through a combination of harassment and arrests and by withholding food aid and jobs to thwart the opposition parties and their supporters.
The leader of the main opposition party, Mrs. Birtukan Mideksa remains imprisoned on a trumped-up charge of attempting to overthrow the government by force. One opposition candidate and three opposition members were assassinated and several members of the opposition party were arrested. Laws were enacted that prohibits NGOs from participating in the areas of human rights and good governance. The absence of independent press and media as well as the pressure on journalists to quit their jobs were reported by several independent observers. Although there are a few hundred foreign observers from the European Union, their number is insignificant compared to the more than 43,000 polling stations in the country. Opposition party members who were designated to watch the election as observers were denied permission at the last minute. Similarly, foreign embassy officials were denied accreditation and the opportunity to travel outside of the capital on Election Day to observe the voting.
Foreign observers commented that the election was peaceful but not free and fair. The opposition have testified that ballot stuffing, intimidation, harassment and the blocking and expulsion of their observers in some of the 43,000 polling stations occurred. New York-based Human Rights Watch, in its post election report, criticised Sunday’s vote as corrupted by pre-election irregularities–including telling voters they could lose food assistance, public-sector jobs, loans and educational opportunities if they voted against the ruling party.
The EU Election Observation Mission (EOM), in its preliminary report, stated that the election was “marred by narrowing political space and an uneven playing field.” The EU EOM also stated that the use of state resources for the campaign, insufficient measures to increase the level of trust of some political parties in the national election board institution, and favouritism toward the EPRDF due to an uneven playing field and a narrow political space caused the elections to “[fall] short of international commitments.”
The US National Security Council’s statement clearly signifies the undemocratic nature of the election: “An environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place even before Election Day.” The limitation of independent observation, the harassment of independent media representatives, and the restriction of political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment, and the tightening of control over civil society are inconsistent with the EPRDF human rights obligations.
We therefore appeal to the international community to reject the outcome of the election as illegitimate and put pressure on the EPRDF government to call for a free and fair election that is closely monitored by the international community–where there is adequate democratic space for the oppositions as well as all political contenders, and where there is an independent electoral institutions. Accepting the result of this election will be considered as rewarding dictatorship and will force other peaceful activists to turn to violence. It will also go against the promises the Western governments make to protect human rights and the rule of law in developing countries.
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