ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has dismissed as “trash that deserves to be thrown in the garbage” a European Union (EU) report that criticised his overwhelming May election victory.
Meles’ ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allied parties won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament in a vote that was also criticised by the United States.
“The report is not about our election. It is just the view of some Western neo-liberals who are unhappy about the strength of the ruling party,” Meles told state television as he returned from the G20 summit late on Sunday. “Anybody who has paper and ink can scribble whatever they want.”
Ethiopia is a key U.S. and European ally in the volatile Horn of Africa, where its secular government is seen as a bulwark against Islamic extremism.
The country’s biggest opposition coalition, the eight-party Medrek, won just a single parliamentary seat. Medrek and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) demanded a rerun, alleging pre-poll intimidation and some vote rigging.
The calls were rejected by the country’s electoral board and Supreme Court.
The EU observer mission’s report said the poll was marred by the EPRDF’s use of state resources, putting the opposition at a disadvantage, and that freedom of expression and movement was not “consistently respected”.
“The electoral process fell short of international commitments for elections, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties,” the 87-page report said.
Europe’s chief observer for the election, Thijs Berman, says he was refused a visa to present the report in Ethiopia. The government denies that.
Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005 damaged its reputation and hampered investment when the opposition disputed the result and street riots erupted in capital Addis Ababa, killing 193 protestors and seven policemen.
At the time, the government accused Europe’s then chief observer of being biased in favour of the opposition and of helping to incite the trouble.