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Ethiopia opposition parties files suit against electoral board

Ethiopian opposition parties on Tuesday filed suit against the National Electoral Board (NEB) [official website] alleging that parties' complaints regarding last month's elections were handled in an irregular manner. The parties allege they submitted 87 pages of evidence [Reuters report] showing irregularities related to the election but were never questioned by the NEB regarding the allegations. The allegations included intimidation of opposition supporters and voter fraud. During last month's election, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) [party website] and their supporters won 545 seats out of 547, with opposition parties picking up the final two seats. The overwhelming win ensured that the EPRDF, and incumbent Prime Minister Meles Zenawi [BBC profile], would remain in power for another five years. Both the US and EU criticized the results following the election. The US State Department (DOS) [official website] noted that Ethiopian election laws heavily favor the party in power [press briefing] and that Ethiopia must take direct, concrete steps to further democracy if its relationship with the US is to progress. An EU spokesman stated that the election process failed to meet international standards [BBC report] and that the ruling party clearly had an advantage in the election process.

The 2005 Ethiopian elections were also marred by allegations of fraud, which led to violent demonstrations [JURIST reports]. The NEB ordered new elections [JURIST report] in 20 districts after an investigation into the fraud allegations found evidence of abuse at more than 100 polling stations. Several Ethiopian opposition members were convicted and sentenced for their roles in the protests, although many asked for and eventually received pardons [JURIST reports]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has chided the Ethiopian government for rights abuses in both elections. Following Tuesday's election, HRW reported on the intimidation tactics [press release] used by the EPRDF in the days preceding the election.

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