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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
EU concern over Ethiopia election
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi has won both of Ethiopia's multi-party elections
European Union election observers have written to Ethiopia's ruling party, voicing their concerns ahead of next Sunday's general elections.

They are worried by the intimidation of opposition officials and a campaign of hate speech, they say.

However, they have also praised the relative lack of violence so far.

At the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people attended rallies in the capital, Addis Ababa, without incident, which one observer called a "miracle".

Last week, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi used a national televised address to accuse the opposition of fomenting ethnic hatred and compared them to the militias responsible for Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

'Beaten'

Chief EU election observer Ana Gomez condemned such talk and said she wanted "action, not promises" to put things right.

There are deficiencies, [but] this is only the third election in the country
Tim Clarke
EU diplomat
She said she was concerned about beatings of opposition officials and disruption of their rallies.

"I myself spoke with people who have been beaten," she told the AFP news agency.

However, she said the overall picture was "very positive".

For many years, Ethiopia was a one-party state and thousands of government critics were killed in the "Red terror".

"Never before in Ethiopian history has there been such an open debate in the country," said the head of the EU delegation in Ethiopia, Tim Clarke.

"For people who have been here a long time, it's a miracle what is happening these days.

"Yes, there are deficiencies, (but) this is only the third election in the country."

Expelled

Mr Meles was re-elected in parliamentary elections in 2000, following Ethiopia's first multi-party elections in 1995.

Homeless man in Addis Ababa
Life is hard for many Ethiopians
The European Union is sending 150 monitors to observe the elections.

In March, six US election observers were expelled from Ethiopia on the grounds they were operating illegally and "not invited".

Some 25 million Ethiopians are able to vote for new members of parliament, who in turn choose a prime minister.

Some 35 parties are contesting the seats, although most of these are members of the three main coalitions: the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the opposition CUD and UEDF.


SEE ALSO:
'Abuses' in Ethiopia's campaign
27 Apr 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Ethiopia
18 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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