From: Biniam Tekle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Mar 04 2010 - 08:43:47 EST
Opposition Rethinks Election Campaign After Candidate Killed
Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa 02 March 2010
Ethiopia's main opposition bloc is reconsidering whether to contest the May
parliamentary elections following brutal attacks on two candidates, one of
them fatal. Opposition leaders are blaming Ethiopia's ruling party for
inflaming passions in the tense Tigray region, where the attacks occurred.
Arena-Tigray Party leader Gebru Asrat says candidate for parliament Aregawi
Gebreyohannes was stabbed to death by intruders in his home in the early
hours of Tuesday morning.
Gebru says another Arena-Tigray candidate was badly beaten Monday by armed
men in another part of the northern Ethiopian region. He says both men had
recently been arrested in connection with their political activities.
Arena-Tigray is part of an eight-party coalition known as Medrek, considered
the main opposition challenging the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary
Democratic Front in the May 23rd elections. Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, is
the home ground of the EPRDF, whose forerunner, the Tigrayan People's
Liberation Front, or TPLF, seized power in Addis Ababa in a 1991 coup.
In a telephone interview, Gebru called the attacks part of an EPRDF campaign
of intimidation. He says politically-motivated violence and intimidation
could make it impossible for Medrek to complete in the elections.
"We have to consider seriously whether we are going to participate," Gebru
said. "Because this is not an election. This is just war. War against us."
Ruling party spokesman Hailemariam Dessalegn, however, categorically
rejected suggestions the attacks were politically motivated. He says police
have determined the murdered opposition politician was killed in a bar room
"He has got a bar and when they were drinking, they quarreled," Hailemariam
said. "That's a personal case. The guy killed him. He has nothing to do with
the EPRDF. And that guy the police has arrested him... and it's nothing to
do with politics."
Hailemariam says the other injured Arena-Tigray candidate had been involved
in a political disagreement, but denied the culprit had been an EPRDF
Tigrayans, an ethnic minority in the north, make up about six percent of
Ethiopia's population, but comprise the majority of the EPRDF's
decision-making inner circle. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is seeking
re-election from his Tigrayan birthplace, celebrated the TPLF's anniversary
last month with a speech in which he was reported to have urged supporters
to "fight the enemy".
Siye Abraha, a former senior TPLF leader who served as EPRDF's first defense
minister, is now a Medrek leader and a opposition candidate for parliament
in Tigray. He called the prime minister's speech "inflammatory."
"As head of the ruling party, and head of the government, he's supposed to
give a clear constructive guidance," Siye said. "But instead he's trying to
portray the opposition as people out for insurrection, or enemies of peace.
No, we are not enemies of peace, we are responsible citizens who care about
peace and stability in our country."
Ruling party spokesman Hailemariam disputed Siye's characterization of the
prime minister's speech. He described Mr. Meles's remarks as simply an
attempt to rally the ruling party's base.
The spokesman accused the opposition of making wild allegations to get
More than 29 million people are registered for the election. It will be the
first since the disputed 2005 poll, which ended in violent demonstrations
that led to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators and several police
The European Union is considering sending an observer team to monitor the
vote, but none of the four main U.S. election observer groups is coming.
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