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Ethiopia votes, ruling party expected to win


israel-ethiopian-protest-AP-640x480POLLS have opened in Ethiopia for the first general election since the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, is certain to stay in office.

Nearly 37 million Ethiopians have registered to vote and they are casting their ballots at tens of thousands of polling stations across the country.

Western observers were not invited and the opposition alleges the government has used authoritarian tactics to ensure a poll victory.

Al Jazeera said voting was going smoothly yesterday but that the opposition had complained of irregularities in the run-up to the election.

“The opposition is fractured. They have been complaining of harassment and intimidation of their supporters, particularly in the rural areas,” Adow added.

Posters of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) dominate the capital, Addis Ababa.

The EPRDF has been in power for over two decades and is confident of a win, but insists the result will be decided on its economic record alone.

Ethiopia is now one of Africa’s top performing economies and a magnet for foreign investment.

Rights groups, which routinely accuse Ethiopia of clamping down on opposition supporters and journalists, and of using anti-terrorism laws to silence dissent and jail critics, said on Saturday that the polls would not be free or fair due to a lack of freedom of speech.

Tsedale Lemma, editor and founder of Addis Standard, said it has not been an easy run-up to the election for the country’s independent media.

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