The final EU report, released in Brussels last week, criticized the conduct of the May 23rd elections on several fronts. Among other things, it charged that state resources had been used in the ruling party’s campaign and that, in a significant number of polling stations, final vote counts were different from those recorded by observers.
In a telephone interview, observer mission chief Thijs Berman defended his conclusions and rejected the prime minister’s criticisms.
“One-hundred and seventy independent observers have been working here in Ethiopia to assess the electoral process in a very serious and professional way,” Berman says, “Anyone who tries to show contempt for this professional work shows contempt for himself. It is degrading for the prime minister to react this way.”
Berman notes that European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has praised the quality of the report and promises to engage the Ethiopian government on its findings. He says questions raised about vote tampering warrant further examination.
“If we say 20 percent of the results in the cases we observed had changed between the polling station and the final aggregation, then this is something that warrants a serious investigation about what went wrong and is this something that can be corroborated by other investigations in the rest of the country,” Berman adds.