Ethiopian opposition contests poll results

ADDIS ABABA, May 31 (AFP) -- Ethiopia's main opposition group said Tuesday it has sued to prevent the certification of the disputed provisional results of May 15 polls that show a victory for the ruling party.

The Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) said rampant fraud had robbed it of a majority in parliament and threatened nationwide protests if the announced returns are made final.

The group said it had gone to court to prevent the validation of a tally released Monday that gives the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) a slim majority in parliament.

In addition, the CUD said it had asked the court to lift a one-month, post-election ban on public demonstrations in the capital imposed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, which it considers illegal.

"The CUD has filed a charge in court demanding that the national electoral board desist from issuing election results that include disputed constituencies," it said in a statement.

"Similarly, CUD has requested the court that the illegal banning of public demonstrations the prime minister has imposed on the people of Addis Ababa ... be lifted," it said.

Provisional results from 496 constituencies released Monday showed the EPRDF with 292 seats, allied parties with 15 and the two main opposition groups, which had held just 12 seats before, with 185.

The CUD, which claims serious fraud and vote-rigging took place in 156 constituencies, said the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia's (NEBE) announcement was "incorrect and unacceptable" given its outstanding complaints.

"We want to make it clear to the Ethiopian people as well as the international community that this announcement of results by the board is incorrect and unacceptable," the CUD said.

It maintained that the NEBE announcement was intended solely to keep the EPRDF in power and claimed anew that it would be declared winner of the election with 314 seats if its complaints were duly investigated.

The CUD threatened last week not to take up its seats in parliament unless its charges were properly investigated and has warned of a campaign of civil disobedience to protest the official results, set to be announced on June 8.

CUD vice chairman Berhanu Nega told reporters that plans were already under way for "numerous and extensive protest demonstrations" to be held peacefully if its complaints are not dealt with.

International observers, who lauded the conduct of the election on polling day itself, have registered growing concern at post-vote developments and urged that all complaints be fully investigated and adjudicated.

The EPRDF, which has been in power for 14 years, has conceded losses in the election but insists it has enough seats in parliament to form a new government.

To read full results of the Ethiopian Elections, please go to: National Electoral Board of Ethiopia website.