Ethiopia’s elections chief said complaints by the opposition of irregularities in two regions risked tarnishing polls yesterday billed by the government as the country’s first free and fair vote after decades of repression.
Election board chief Birtukan Midekssa said several opposition parties had complained their agents were beaten and their badges confiscated in two regions.
Opposition leader Berhanu Nega said his Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party (Ezema) had filed 207 complaints.
Local officials and militia prevented observers from entering many polling stations in the Amhara region and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, he said.
“This will jeopardise the credibility of the election process,” Birtukan warned. “Local officials and law enforcement officers should immediately take corrective measures.”
But in most areas, including the capital, voting went peacefully although many polling stations opened late.
The election board extended voting nationwide by three hours because many polling stations still had long lines when they were due to close.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said the elections for national and regional parliaments are proof of his commitment to democracy.
“I hope it will be the best election in history,” he told journalists after voting.
Ethnic violence and printing errors have delayed the polls in a fifth of constituencies, however, including all those in Tigray, where Ethiopia’s military has been fighting the northern region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), since November.
In populous Oromiya, major opposition parties are boycotting the vote over what they say is intimidation by regional security forces.
Government officials did not return calls seeking comment about the allegations of intimidation. Abiy, 45, oversaw sweeping political and economic reforms after his appointment in 2018 by the ruling coalition which, with allies, currently holds all 547 national parliamentary seats.
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