The 5-Minute Briefing: Ethiopia's elections

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The Independent Online

Why are the elections in the news?

Why are the elections in the news?

Ethiopia's ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and the two opposition parties claimed victory in last Sunday's election. Twenty-six million Ethiopians (out of a total population of 74.2 million,) registered to vote at 30,000 polling stations. The 90 per cent turnout was put down to "election fever".

The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) is reported to have won all 23 seats in the capital, Addis Ababa. The ruling party has acknowledged the CUD took about a third of the 547 seats. CUD disputes the EPRDF's claim to have won more than 300 seats. The other main opposition is the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). Last week the two opposition groups said they would form a coalition government if they won.

The election is the third multi-party poll since 1995. Provisional results are due tomorrow, with the final results expected on 8 June.

How popular is the Prime Minister?

Meles Zenawi is seeking a third term, but his campaign has been dogged by allegations of fraud. On Monday he ordered a month-long ban on demonstrations and took control of security forces in Addis Ababa.

Opposition groups reported harassment and abuse, and claimed 100 election observers were arrested and detained before the poll. Human Rights Watch called it a "hollow exercise", but EU observers and diplomats, later praised the poll's openness compared to 2000.

What's the wider significance?

America sees Ethiopia as a key ally in the war on terror, but fears the border dispute with Eritrea could flare up again.

Mr Meles is one of Tony Blair's 17 hand-picked commissioners for Africa; any proven fraud or political repression would be an embarrassment to the UK.

What is the opposition campaigning for?

Both CUD and the UEDF want the 1994 constitution redrawn. It supports "ethnic federalism", with the country divided into nine states along ethnic and linguistic lines. CUD wants the national administration to have more power. The UEDF wants greater state autonomy. Economic policy and land ownership are also key issues. The ruling party wants to maintain control of the financial sector and all land.

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