September 16, 2005

Carter endorses Ethiopia’s disputed election

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Former U.S. president and
international poll observer Jimmy Carter urged Ethiopia's
opposition parties to take their seats in parliament as he gave
qualified support for the country's disputed election.

The electoral board's final results from the May poll
showed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling Ethiopian Peoples'
Revolutionary Democratic Front and allies won enough seats in
the 547-member parliament to form the next government.

But the main opposition parties, the Coalition for Unity
and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, have
alleged widespread fraud and threatened not to take their seats
when the new parliament convenes in a few weeks.

Disputes over the elections sparked street protests in July
in which 36 people died when police opened fire on

"There have always been abnormalities in elections
including in my own country, the United States. My hope is
opposition party members would take their seats in parliament
and ensure that voters' interests are represented," Carter told
a news conference in Addis Ababa late on Thursday.

He also called for an investigation into the killing of the

Carter, whose organization sent some 50 observers to
monitor voting, said the election was not perfect, but showed
improvements compared with previous ones in 1995 and 2000.

"The Carter Center's assessment of the elections suggests
that the majority of the constituency results...are credible
and reflected competitive conditions," the group said in a

The statement said, however, a "considerable number" of
results "were problematic and lack credibility."

The opposition sharply increased its standing in the May 15
polls, widely regarded as Ethiopia's most democratic yet.

However Prime Minister Meles, feted by Western leaders in
the past as part of a "new generation" of African leaders, has
seen his democratic credentials called into question over the
election wrangling and handling of the bloody protests.