In this dispatch from Ethiopia, Kay Torrance - the Carter Center's assistant director of public information and a member of the Center's international delegation - writes from the capital city of Addis Ababa. The country's multiparty elections - only the third in its 3,000-year old history - were held May 15, 2005.
The Carter Center election delegation to Ethiopia was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn, former Botswana President Sir Ketumile Joni Masire, and former Tanzania Prime Minister Judge Joseph Warioba. The international community, including the Center, watched electoral preparations in Ethiopia with much anticipation. Ethiopia's National Electoral Board accredited 319 international observers, including 50 from The Carter Center.
The Center deployed its observers to every region in Ethiopia, except the Somali region which votes at a later date due to logistical challenges. The delegation's leadership observed polling stations in and around the capital city of Addis Ababa.
More than 30,000 polling stations opened at 6 a.m. (considered midnight in Ethiopia), and closed 12 hours later at 6:00 pm, or noon.
Turnout for the third multi-party election in Ethiopia's 3,000-year history history was estimated at 90 percent; 26 million of the country's 74 million people were registered to vote in the election.
Provisional results are due later this month, with official results expected to be announced June 8.
Africa's oldest country, Ethiopia has a history dating back to ancient times, but its democratic experience is only about a decade old. Ethiopia was a monarchy until 1974 when the military deposed the emperor and established a socialist state. The military's rule was characterized by violent coups, uprisings, and drought, and was finally toppled in 1991 by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of rebel forces. A constitution was passed in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multi-party elections were held in 1995.
The 1995 elections, though, were not viewed optimistically as the opposition parties boycotted them after perceived bias toward the ruling party. For this election, the opposition parties formed a coalition and organized their campaigning.
The NEB lost a Supreme Court case the week of the election challenging its denial of accreditation to members of any nonprofit organization that did not list "election observation" when it registered with the government. Any nongovernmental organization must register with the government to work in the country.
In preparation for the elections, the NEB distributed 28.6 million ballots to 31,000 polling stations. President and Mrs. Carter and Judge Warioba saw the NEB's preparations first-hand May 13. They met with NEB Chairman Ato Kemal Bedri and the board members and saw the NEB computer room, where results were officially entered.
Learn More: The Carter Center in Ethiopia