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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Ethiopia ruling party claims win
Woman casting her vote in Ethiopia
Voter turnout has been much higher than expected
Ethiopia's ruling party says it has won the country's general election - though there is no formal confirmation yet.

But it admits opposition parties have won all 23 seats in the capital, Addis Ababa. Local reports say many key ministers have lost their seats.

Results from the country's vast rural areas were expected to turn the tally in favour of the ruling EPRDF.

Foreign observers welcomed the huge turnout at Sunday's vote as a sign of people's faith in Ethiopia's polls.

Election officials said that turnout was around 90% - higher than in previous polls.

The Election Commission is not expected to announce provisional results until Saturday.

Crucial test

Minister of Information Bereket Simon, who is also spokesman for the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front) said they had won more than half of the seats in parliament despite losing seats in the capital and for the city council.

"We have the majority - We can't give exact figures but we have won more than 300 seats. This is a very positive result for us," he told AP news agency.

One Ethiopian report says several ministers, including the speaker, information minister, defence minister and education minister have lost their seats.

The ruling party say they have won regional assemblies in four states: South Ethiopia Peoples, Oromia, Amhara and Tigray.

Opposition parties had only 12 seats before the poll, but set a target of jointly winning 185 - enough to block legislation.

Ethiopians share their views on the elections

These are Ethiopia's third multi-party elections and the first time that foreign observers have been invited.

More than 300 foreign observers were allowed to check the vote, regarded as a crucial test of the country's fledgling democracy.

Twenty-six million Ethiopians were registered to vote at 30,000 polling stations.

The BBC's Mohammed Adow in Addis Ababa says that some voters were frustrated at waiting for many hours to get to the front of the long queues to cast their ballots.

Polling was extended in some areas.

There were some opposition complaints about the conduct of the poll.

The situation is one of calm and a massive voter turnout
Ana Gomes
Chief EU election observer

The main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) complained of alleged election fraud and mass arrests of their election observers but pulled back from calls to reject the entire results.

"If they have won fairly and squarely I have no problem with that, but the counting is not even over yet. It is still too early to call," said CUD leader Hailu Shawel.

But former US President Jimmy Carter said it was a "dramatic improvement" on previous parliamentary elections.

The European Union noted scattered irregularities, such as intimidation and children voting but said it was too early to reject the results entirely.

Following opposition allegations of fraud, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ordered a month-long ban on demonstrations.

Mr Zenawi also took control of the security forces in the capital Addis Ababa, in moves he said were meant to ensure post-election stability.

Watch Ethiopians take to the polls

Arrests ahead of Ethiopian poll
14 May 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Ethiopia
18 Feb 05 |  Country profiles
Q&A: Ethiopia votes
13 May 05 |  Africa

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