The White House on Tuesday said it was "concerned" about Ethiopia's weekend elections, which gave long-time ruler Meles Zenawi a landslide win, appeared to fall short of global standards.
Limits put on "independent observation and the harassment of independent media representatives are deeply troubling," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
"We are concerned that international observers found that the elections fell short of international commitments," he said, adding the White House was "disappointed" as US officials were not allowed to travel outside the capital to observe voting.
Hammer said an environment for free, fair elections "was not in place even before election day," and expressed the White House's concern that restricted free speech and association was "inconsistent with the Ethiopian government's human rights obligations."
Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said earlier on Tuesday that while the elections were relatively peaceful, "we note with some degree of remorse that the elections there were not up to international standards."
Over the last 18 months, the "government has taken clear and decisive steps that would ensure that it would garner an electoral victory," Carson told the House of Foreign Affairs Committee.
"And that is indeed what has happened, because the level of opposition representation that appears to have won seats in the legislative branch of the Ethiopian government has dropped quite significantly," he added.
"It is important that Ethiopia move forward in strengthening its democratic institutions, and when elections are held, that it levels the playing field to give everyone a free opportunity to participate without fear or favor," he said.