Ethiopia's ruling party wins election landslide

National Ethiopian Electoral Board employees tally votes from various regions at the National Ethiopian Electoral Board in Addis Ababa on May 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker)

By Karim Lebhour

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia's ruling party and its allies have won an overwhelming majority in parliament in weekend elections, the country's electoral board announced Wednesday.

According to preliminary results, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn secured all 442 parliamentary seats so far declared out of the 547 seats up for grabs, said Merga Bekena, president of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

The EPRDF, in power in Africa's second-most populous nation for over two decades, were widely expected to secure a near clean-sweep of parliament, and the outgoing chamber had just one opposition MP.

Ahead of Sunday's polls, which African Union observers said passed off without incident, the opposition alleged the government had used authoritarian tactics to guarantee victory.

According to the electoral board, the EPRDF also took back the only seat that was held by the opposition, securing all 23 seats in the capital Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia, whose 1984 famine triggered a major global fundraising effort, has experienced near-double-digit economic growth and huge infrastructure investment -- making the country one of Africa's top performing economies and a magnet for foreign investment.

It also remains a favourite of key international donors, despite concerns over human rights, as a bastion of stability in an otherwise troubled region.

Former Marxist rebel-turned-leader Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, was succeeded by Prime Minister Hailemariam, who has said he is committed to opening up the country's political system to allow more space for opposition parties.

But rights groups routinely accuse Ethiopia of clamping down on opposition supporters and journalists, and of using anti-terrorism laws to silence dissent and jail critics. Activists have said the polls would not be free or fair due to a lack of freedom of speech.