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Main opposition coalition merges to form party

The four parties that make up Ethiopia's largest opposition alliance, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) have merged to form one party, an official of the coalition said on Thursday.

The All Ethiopia Unity Party, the Union of Ethiopia Democracy Party, Rainbow Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Democratic League announced their unification on Saturday. It elected Hailu Shawel to continue as chairperson of the new party and Birtukan Mideksa to serve as vice-chair.

"This merger means a strengthening of the opposition, added force to the opposition," Hailu Araya, CUD spokesman, told IRIN.

"Our vision is eventually to unite all the opposition parties in Ethiopia, but in the immediate future we are focused on consolidating the CUD alliance," he added.

Hailu said the opposition demonstration to protest the results of the 15 May national elections - planned for 2 October - was still "on schedule" but was dependent on the administration of the capital, Addis Ababa.

"The demonstration is intended to protest the unfairness of the national election results and also to impress upon the government the need to accept the opposition's proposal for a government of national unity, which they have so far rejected," he added.

In August, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) said: "The question of sharing power through negotiation will not be acceptable, as EPRDF had won the elections democratically."

Hailu said the recent arrests of opposition supporters by the government had continued ahead of Sunday's demonstration, with the numbers of those jailed possibly "in the hundreds".

Information Minister Bereket Simon told IRIN on Tuesday that the police had arrested 43 people in the Amhara region on the grounds that opposition parties - notably the CUD and the second largest opposition group, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces - were "collecting weapons and preparing for illegal activity".

According to the electoral board, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling coalition, which has held power for 14 years, took 327 seats, winning a new five-year term. The EPRDF will now control 59 percent of the 547-seat parliament, losing around 150 seats during the polls.

Opposition parties took 174 seats - 32 percent of the seats - with the CUD taking 20 percent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition held only 12 seats previously.

The polls were marred by controversy, with the European Union (EU) saying the ballot had failed to meet international standards in key areas. This criticism elicited a sharp response from Meles, who branded the EU election observer mission report "garbage".

Hailu said the new party had not yet decided whether or not its members would take up their seats in the new parliament.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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