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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
EU criticises Ethiopian elections
Woman casts her voter in Ethiopia's Somali region
Sunday's elections in the Somali region were especially criticised
The European Union's chief election observer in Ethiopia has said recent elections failed to meet international standards in several key respects.

Ana Gomes criticised the way charges of electoral fraud were dealt with after the parliamentary elections.

"Solid evidence" of irregularities presented by the opposition had been dismissed, she said.

The coalition led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi retained its majority but the opposition gained many seats.

Several days of violence followed the 15 May poll and around 40 people were killed when police fired on crowds of protesters.

'Votes for sale'

Last Sunday, repeat elections were held in 31 seats, as well as in the Somali region.

"The EU Observation Mission regrets [that the election process] did not live up to the international standards and to the aspirations of Ethiopians for democracy," Ms Gomes said.

EPRDF: 296
EPRDF allies: 22
CUD: 109
UEF: 52
Others: 13
Re-runs: 31
Still to be held: 24
Source: National Electoral Board
She especially criticised the elections in the Somali region, saying they were "poorly organized, full of irregularities, including ballots being sold in the black market."

The results from Sunday's elections have not yet been released.

She also said there had been human rights abuses, such as the arrest of opposition activists and the intimidation of witnesses.

The main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy has refused to accept the official results and welcomed the EU statement.

"I think it was a good, honest report and now we need dialogue to resolve the current deadlock," said CUD vice-chairman Berhanu Nega.

Information Minister Bereket Simon dismissed the EU report as "biased".

Ethiopia's National Electoral Board also the criticisms.

"This is totally unfair - We did everything we could to make sure these elections were free and fair and believe that they were," its head Kemal Bedri told the AP news agency.

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