Ethiopia’s election is more than two weeks away, but various insecurities and logistical issues, such as representation issues, threaten to overshadow the country’s twice-delayed national polls.
In a televised statement in April, Prime Minister Abi Ahmed promised the Ethiopians that they would be able to shape the country’s destiny with their vote. However, how? bloodshed Other instability in North Tigris continues to hurt civilians as candidates plan to provide Abi with the toughest electoral challenge stay behind bars, among some Ethiopians the enthusiasm continues to wane.
“I do not have much hope for that process, I just want peace,” said Haymanot se egaye, a graduate student in the capital, Addis Ababa.
“Everything can lead to violence these days.”
The June 21 election for the 547-seat Ethiopian House of Representatives will be the sixth since the overthrow of the Communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. But they will be the first without the four parties of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The bloc, which had won five previous contests, including the last one in 2015, secured all the seats in the process of being accused of intimidation.
Under its nearly 30-year rule, the EPRDF-led government has used mass arrests and state violence to crack down on its critics. In 2005, police officers against unarmed protesters killed about 200 protesters for disguising the illegalities of the street.
Grievances over growing authoritarianism sparked popular uprisings that eventually paved the way for Abi to come to power three years ago. At just 41 years old, Africa’s youngest leader, Abi promised to change the government, implement democratic reforms aimed at free and fair elections, the first in history by 2020.
As soon as he took power in 2018, Abi fired a number of EPRDF officials who ended the coalition’s dominance by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The following year, he disbanded the EPRDF coalition as a whole, inviting member parties to join a union that became the United Prosperity (PP). However, the Tigrayan elites gave up on the idea of joining the PP and retreated to Tigray, where the TPLF still headed the regional government until the outbreak of war in November 2020.
PP party officials say the dissolution of the EPRDF will reduce social divisions, promote democracy in Africa’s second most populous country, and a mosaic of more than 80 ethnic groups.
“Since 2018, the government has taken a number of measures to expand democratization, expanding the political space and creating a favorable environment for democratic practice,” said Ethiopian Ambassador to Qatar Samia Ekaria. “It has repeatedly reiterated its firm promise to ensure free elections, convinced that this is the only legitimate way to a peaceful transition of power.”
Ethiopia during the reign of Abi
As part of a large-scale change, political parties that had long been outlawed during the EPRDF were decriminalized. Prominent opposition figures have been released from prison or invited to return from exile to take part in the country’s popular process without fear of persecution.
At the same time, the appointment of Birtukan Mideksa as chairman of the National Electoral Council (NEB) further fueled optimism. In the aftermath of the controversial 2005 election, Birtukan, a former leader of the notorious political opposition who spent almost 40 months behind bars in two prisons, was seen by observers as a sign of real reform.
In March 2020, citing the risks of the COVID-19 epidemic, the NEB announced that it would postpone that year’s election by one year.
The decision angered much of the country’s political opposition, which accused the ruling party of using the epidemic as an excuse to illegally extend its rule, which the government has accused.
In June 2020, the Balderas for Genuine Democracy opposition party, based in Addis Ababa, announced that if elections were not held, they would call off protests until October 2020, when Abi’s initial term was due to expire.
But just weeks after that announcement, party leader Eskinder Nega, who was among the political prisoners released in 2018, was withdrawn and accused of unleashing violence following June 29. murder Famous musician and activist Hacalu Hundesa.
A number of other prominent candidates թեկնածու Abiy critics, including the duo of the hugely influential Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) party, Aw Avar Mohammed և Bekele Gerba, also took part in what ended as a mass rally of government critics.
Inquiries: second delay Last month, Eskinder, Aw Avari and Bekele were still behind bars on logistical issues, including the training of election staff, the printing and distribution of ballots, all of whom have been charged with terrorism-related crimes.
“No, this election will not be free and fair anywhere if the parties have their leaders in prison,” said OFER President Merera Gudina. “This election has no legitimacy. Members of the ruling party are now demanding that people show their voter registration documents, buy oil, sugar and other amenities. “They are forcing people to register, to promote what will be low voter turnout due to a lack of interest.”
Merera’s party has said it will boycott the election, citing a lack of competition while key leaders and party members remain in custody. The OFC enjoys considerable popularity among the country’s ethnic Oromo population, who make up about one-third of the country’s 110 million people, and led protests that eventually led to Abi being appointed prime minister.
The only other party that could compete with the OCM for Oromo influence is the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a former militant group that has renounced decades of armed struggle to join party politics in 2018 at Abi’s invitation. were also arrested.
“Most of the Oromo youth have lost hope in the process. “Many would not even be able to tell you when election day is,” said Yerun Tolasaa, a college lecturer in Addis Ababa. “The Oromos are not represented in the elections.”
At the same time, the vote will not take place in Tigray, where a seven-month conflict between former federal powers and former regional leaders has led to the partial takeover of its institutions and infrastructure, as well as neighboring Eritrean troops. conflict in support of Addis Ababa.
Last year, Tigray made its own fraudulent inquiries in defiance of federal government orders. The winning TPLF has since been designated a “terrorist” group by the federal government.
Who is running?
The lack of a stark contrast between the two main constituencies, where the country’s main political strongholds are located, has left an obvious lack of diversity among the rest of the election և’s Prosperous Party rivals.
One of the political forces competing in the upcoming polls is the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (better known by its acronym Ezema), led by Berhanu Nega, who ran for mayor of Addis Ababa in the disputed 2005 elections. Founded just a year ago, the Enat party will nominate more than 500 candidates.
Eight of the top 10 opposition parties in terms of number of candidates have their support bases in Addis Ababa. Most of them are less than outside the Ethiopian capital.
“This election will not be competitive,” said Goitom Gebrelul, a political analyst and African affairs researcher. “But the most harmful thing is that there is only one main social electorate in the polls. “It serves to devalue ideals such as democracy, human rights, and a detrimental effect on society.”
There have been a number of televised election debates over the past month, covering a range of topics. Almost all of the opposition parties involved in the debate, with the exception of the Amhara National Movement (NAMA), are based in Addis Ababa.
The lack of diversity could best be reflected in the two sessions of the Afaan Oromo debate in Ethiopia in April. For the organized Oromo audience, no political parties in the Oromo region were represented during the debates.
At the same time, the Tigray War was largely left out of the debate, although it was one of the most pressing issues in the country, as reports of escalating atrocities, rising famines, and allegations of gun rape and ethnic cleansing warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Ninety percent of Tigray’s population, or 5.2 million people, are in urgent need of food assistance.
Last month, the United States slapped Ethiopian officials for imposing sanctions on thousands, if not more, victims of a war that displaced nearly two million people. In May, the European Union canceled a plan to send election observers to Ethiopia over alleged communication problems. This came after five US senators called for a postponement of the polls, which they described as “currently not in line with international standards of freedom, justice and transparency.”
“Significant political and legal reforms”
However, the Ethiopian government insists it has ensured inclusion, and that this year’s election will be a significant departure from past practice.
“Unlike our history, which is marred by an undemocratic political culture in which the rulers came to power, ousted from the barrel of a gun, the forthcoming June elections are being held after significant political and legal reforms,” said Ambassador Samia.
At the same time, an Ethiopian court recently ordered the NEB to allow Baldéras’s imprisoned candidates for the True Democracy party, including leader Eskinder, to run in the election.
The body, citing time constraints, initially said it was unable to comply with the court ruling, but later said that an exception would be made for the Balderas party, which would allow its leaders to run in the election.
With most of Ethiopia’s political opposition out of contention, some observers fear opinion polls could increase dissatisfaction with the government.
“Incomplete elections are gathering popular discontent. “We know this in Ethiopia, because election fraud under the recent regime is one of the grievances now being used to condemn the TPLF,” said Nick Chizeman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham.
“If Abiy continues to hold elections that are also flawed, it will create such anger and frustration by repeating the cycle.”