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William Davison, May 27
 
Ethiopia’s ruling coalition won a majority in national elections, extending its 20-year rule over Africa’s second-most populous country, the electoral board said.

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, and allied parties won all 442 of the seats counted so far in the 547-member federal parliament, Chairman Merga Bekana told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Addis Ababa. In the last election in 2010, the ruling coalition won all but one seat in the assembly.

“The election was successfully completed as scheduled with high participation of our citizens who really committed themselves to the development of democracy,” Merga said. More than 90 percent of the country’s 37 million registered voters cast their ballots in the May 24 vote, he said.

The EPRDF campaigned on its record of building infrastructure and reducing poverty rates. The economy, one of Africa’s fastest-growing, is expected to expand about 8.5 percent this year and next, according to the International Monetary Fund. Merera Gudina, a leader of the opposition Medrek party, said May 24 there had been violations across Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, with security forces intimidating opposition observers.

The vote was “peaceful, calm and credible,” according to the African Union mission that monitored the election. The 29 observer teams visited 356 polling stations in all federal regions other than Afar, mission head Hifikepunye Pohamba told reporters Tuesday.

‘Enormous Success’

The European Union said it was “encouraged” the election was “largely orderly and peaceful,” while noting factors that had a “negative impact” on the electoral environment.

“Arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, closure of a number of media outlets and obstacles faced by the opposition in conducting its campaign have limited the space for open debate,” EU spokeswoman Catherine Ray said in an e-mailed statement.

The ruling coalition of four regional parties is an “enormously successful and powerful authoritarian” movement, said Terrence Lyons, an associate professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

“Since 2005 the ruling party has vastly increased its presence throughout the countryside, while reducing political space for opposition and placing strict limits on independent media,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who was competing in his first election since former premier Meles Zenawi died in 2012, leads the EPRDF. The board will release final results on June 22.


William Davison