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Ethiopian Election Campaign Has Become a `War' on Opposition, Leader Says

Ethiopia’s ruling party has increased harassment of opposition supporters before a May 23 election in the Horn of Africa country, opposition coalition leader Merara Gudina said.

Activists loyal to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front have thrown stones at his car, breaking its windows and puncturing its tires over various occasions while campaigning in the Oromiya region in the past two weeks, said Merara, who is a parliamentary candidate.

“It looks like sort of a war, not an election,” Merara said in a phone interview from the capital, Addis Ababa, today.

Public meetings for Medrek, an alliance of opposition parties, are often blocked by local officials in Oromiya, Merara said. Medrek leaders have been barred from hotels and from buying fuel in some areas of the region, he said. The ruling alliance is defending a majority of 400 seats in the 537-seat parliament.

A video camera was stolen that had been used to document what activists described as abuses, Merara said.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal could not immediately comment on the allegations when reached on his mobile phone. Seikuture Getachew and Hailemariam Desalegn, spokesmen for the ruling party, did not answer calls to their mobile phones.

Two Medrek activists have been killed since March. The government has denied the two deaths were connected to the campaign.

The opposition is planning to use violence to topple the government, Tedros Hagos, head of the political bureau of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front which rules the country in a coalition with Meles’ party, said on April 28.

Security forces loyal to Meles killed 193 demonstrators in the aftermath of the country’s disputed 2005 poll. Opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa is in jail on a life sentence for treason given after the election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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