The EPRDF also crushed an eight-party opposition coalition known as Medrek, in the Horn of Africa nation's largest region, Oromia, which has been a stronghold of opponents.

"Definitely, at this point the EPRDF has won, definitely," Bekana said.

A victory for EPRDF would extend the time in office of Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, to nearly 25 years.

Peaceful and calm

Observers from the European Union said Sunday's poll was peaceful and calm, albeit with some claims of irregularities that needed to be checked.

They said the election showed Ethiopian citizens wanted their democratic rights espected.

However, New York-based Human Rights Watch had criticised Sunday's vote as corrupted by pre-election irregularities, including telling voters they could lose food assistance, public-sector jobs, loans and educational opportunities if they voted against the ruling party.

Zenawi told the Reuters news agency in an interview on Sunday his party would win as it had presided over seven years of double-digit growth and had begun to reform the political and judicial landscape.

While nearly 10 per cent of the population relied on emergency food aid last year, the government has invested heavily in infrastructure and Meles now wants to step up power production, improve telecommunications and develop industry.

Analysts said there was less chance of violence in this year's polls because many opposition supporters believed they had little hope of winning and the 2005 riots were crushed.

The 2005 poll descended into deadly riots when the opposition said it was cheated of victory after a campaign which captured the imagination of many.