Ethiopia to invite monitors for polls in 2005

Addis Ababa – Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has averted a possible boycott of 2005 elections by opposition parties by agreeing to their demand to invite international observers, his ruling party said on Tuesday.

Ethiopia banned international observers from monitoring the last vote in 2000, restricting the observer status to Ethiopian civil societies, the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) and diplomats resident in its capital Addis Ababa.

“The ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has agreed to allow the international community to send observers to monitor next year’s national election,” the party said in statement issued on Tuesday at the end of a two-day meeting.

“EPRDF will work in co-operation with all opposition parties, to make next year’s national election, transparent, fair and free,” the statement said.

‘EPRDF will work in co-operation with all opposition parties’
Beyene Petors, deputy chairperson of the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) said the decision was an attempt to placate the donor community, adding more measures were needed to ensure free and fair elections.

“The cardinal demand of the opposition parties was that the EPRDF-appointed election board be dismantled and be replaced by a non-partisan group representing none of the parties participating in the election,” Beyena said.

The EPRDF ousted Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and formed a broad-based transitional government of 30 political groups and enacted a new constitution before national elections in 1995.

Zenawi, the party’s secretary-general, became prime minister with executive power and was re-elected in 2000. National elections are held every five years.