Ethiopia’s prime minister met members of 81 opposition parties on Tuesday to discuss ways of reforming the electoral system, his office said, as he pressed on with promises to open up a political arena dominated by his coalition. Abiy Ahmed has turned national politics on its head since coming to power in April by welcoming back exiled opposition and separatist groups, releasing prisoners and appointing a formerly jailed dissident as head of the election board. The meeting focused “on highlighting the reforms required to ensure the upcoming election is free & fair, and the shared responsibilities of all,” his office said on Twitter. There was no immediate comment from opposition groups.
Ethiopian opposition parties did not manage to break the rule of Ethiopia’s ruling party last month or receive a significant amount of seats in parliament. It complained of harassment, intimidation and vote-rigging during the May election in which the ruling party probably won all of the parliament seats and another five years in power. The opposition Ethiopia Democratic Party claims the pre-election process was not fair and the election results are not credible. EDP Executive Committee member Wasihun Tesfaye feels there is a deadlock in the current multi-party system, but said the opposition will continue.
Ethiopia’s ruling party and its allies celebrated a clean sweep victory in parliament Monday with the announcement of last month’s election results. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn secured all 546 parliamentary seats, including the sole seat held by an opposition MP in the previous chamber, said Merga Bekana, chairman of the electoral board. Preliminary results for the last outstanding constituency, the southwestern Bonga district where elections were delayed, showed the EPRDF also winning that seat.
Ethiopia’s ruling coalition won a majority in national elections, extending its 20-year rule over Africa’s second-most populous country, the electoral board said. The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, and allied parties won all 442 of the seats counted so far in the 547-member federal parliament, Chairman Merga Bekana told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Addis Ababa. In the last election in 2010, the ruling coalition won all but one seat in the assembly. “The election was successfully completed as scheduled with high participation of our citizens who really committed themselves to the development of democracy,” Merga said. More than 90 percent of the country’s 37 million registered voters cast their ballots in the May 24 vote, he said.
African Union observers said on Tuesday that Ethiopia’s parliamentary election held on Sunday was credible except for a few irregularities, but the opposition dismissed the vote as marred by violations including ballot box theft. Provisional results in Africa’ second most populous nation are due later this week and few expect anything but a landslide for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, in power since ousting dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who took over after EPRDF’s long-serving leader Meles Zenawi died in 2012, has pushed on with EPRDF’s highly-centralised statist economic model credited with turning around the fortunes of a country once ravaged by war and famine.
Ethiopians are voting in national and regional elections – the country’s first since the 2012 death of its longtime leader – with the ruling party expected to maintain its grip on power. More than 38 million voters are eligible to cast ballots on Sunday. Some opposition groups had threatened to boycott the vote, saying their members were being harassed and detained – charges the government denies. The prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn – a former university professor – has been leading the country since the death of strongman Meles Zenawi, who built the ruling coalition into a powerful political organisation, while opposition groups complain of persecution.
Ethiopia, Washington’s security partner and Africa’s second most populous country, is scheduled to hold national elections on May 24. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allied parties won 99.6 percent of the seats in the last round of elections in 2010. There is no doubt that the ruling party will win again. The party has ruled since 1991 when it seized power following a prolonged civil war. It dominates all major political, economic, and social institutions, has virtually eliminated independent political space, and opposition parties are fractured and harassed. Ethiopia has jailed more journalists than any other country in Africa.
Ethiopian opposition groups are accusing the government of harassing their members and carrying out illegal detentions ahead of the May 24 elections. Yonathan Tesfaye, spokesman for the Blue Party, told The Associated Press this week that some party members are being beaten, especially in the southern region. He said his party may boycott the elections. “If the current level of harassment and detention along with the problem in registering our observers continues, we might be forced to consider exiting from the election process,” he said.
Since the overthrow of the communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in May 1991, Ethiopia has organised regular elections in which an increasing number of international actors, especially election observers, have been involved. During this period, one political organization, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has been dominant. When in control, the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, served continuously as head of government until his death in August 2012. He was succeeded by Hailemariam Desalegn. The tensions and contradictions between external democracy-promoters and the practices and ideals of the Ethiopian leadership were brought into sharp focus after the 2005 and 2010 elections. Both elections led to a diplomatic crisis, especially between the regime and EU observers. However, this conflict did not substantially affect the levels of external aid or the continued dominance of the EPRDF.