Berman rejects Meles’ “disrespectful” response to EU report

Posted on May 27, 2010

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Chief observer Thijs Berman of the European Union Election Mission to Ethiopia (EU EOM) strongly rejects Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s reaction to the preliminary report of his observers mission.

“It is solid as a rock and can not be pushed aside like this,” he said. “Anyone who tries to disqualify a report like ours, thereby disqualifies himself.”

In a press conference held yesterday (May 26, 2010) in his office Meles told local and international reporters that the conclusions the EU EOM presented were a reflection of Berman’s political opinion.

No evidence
The report hailed the high turnout in peacefully held elections last Sunday (May 23, 2010), but also criticized the lack of a level playing field for political parties and the use of state resources for campaign purposes in favor of the ruling party.

“The EU has no evidence for that,” Meles said. “If your conclusions are based on accusations without any proof, it is not a neutral observation.”

In a reaction Berman said his foundings are solid and Meles’ reaction is “disrespectful to the facts” his observers found.

“There is a big difference between one person’s opinion and facts presented by 170 professional and highly experienced observers,” he said.

Intimidation
Berman presented his foundings in a press conference last Tuesday (May 25, 2010). At the same time a massive rally was held by tens of thousands of ruling party supporters to celebrate the landslide win of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The demonstration, organized by the EPRDF, was also used to express anger about “mingling in internal affairs” by “external forces”.

Berman said he was intimidated by the rally that was held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba and in various other cities all over the country.

“I think a rally that ‘accidently’ takes place on the same morning as our press conference, with slogans like ‘observing yes, trojan horse no’, is nothing else than an obvious form of intimidation of our observers mission.”

Illegal acts
Meles’ EPRDF, in power since 1991, has won massively in the fourth national elections which opposition parties have dismissed as fraudulous. Medrek, EPRDF’s main competitor, yesterday (May 26, 2010) called for a re-election.

Meles, who says he will definitely retire after the next five years, responded by saying a re-election is out of the question. He suggested the opposition leaders would take their complaints to the court.

He also warned the opposition not to engage in any illegal acts. “We may detain leaders if they continue to behave illegally,” he said, adding that he highly appreciates the opposition’s electorate, who voted against his party but accepted the result peacefully.

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