Ethiopia’s two-time-delayed polls end their election campaign next week, with Prime Minister Abi Ahmed predicting the country will hold a peaceful referendum.
The June 21 election will take place amid widespread ethnic unrest and economic challenges, such as the months-long conflict in the northern Tigris region, where the United Nations warns that at least 350,000 people are starving. Opposition parties in other parts of the country have stated they will not run in the by-elections, the sixth such election since the fall of the Communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
“The whole world says we will fight, but we will show them differently,” Abin said during his first and final rally at a packed stadium in the southern city of Jim Imma on Wednesday.
“The forces that saved Ethiopia from collapse will turn the Horn of Africa into an African bloc,” he added, wearing sunglasses and a tuxedo from traditional local fabrics.
“I say to all Ethiopians (involved) in the struggle to ensure a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Ethiopia. “As long as the Ethiopians stand together with one spirit and one heart, there is no force on earth that can stop us,” he said. speaking a mixture of his mother tongue, Afan Oromo, the language of the region, the national Amharic language.
Abiy’s Prosperous Party nominates the most candidates in national parliamentary races հաստատ is definitely the favorite to win, with a wide selection of other political parties.
Monday’s polls are a chance for the 44-year-old to win the popular mandate after coming to power in 2018, after years of anti-government protests.
After his appointment, Abi promised to reshuffle the government, implement democratic reforms aimed at free and fair elections, the first in history by 2020.
But in March last year, citing the risks of a coronavirus epidemic, the country’s electorate announced that it would postpone the poll for another year. The ruling has angered much of the country’s political opposition, who have accused the ruling party of using the epidemic as an excuse to illegally extend its rule, which the government has accused.
A second week was announced last month due to logistical shocks, including training of election staff, ballot printing and distribution.
Although elected nationwide, voting on Monday will not take place in nearly one-fifth of the country’s 547 constituencies, including all 38 of Tigray’s 64 other locations in the country of 110 million people. Most of the delayed voting is scheduled for September 6, but no date has been set for Tigray, where more than five million people are in urgent need of emergency food assistance.
Abiy ordered ground and air operations in Tigray in early November 2020 after accusing the then ruling party in the region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of carrying out attacks on federal army camps, a claim denied by TPLF officials. :
Abi, backed by Eritrean troops’s fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, declared victory in late November when the army entered the regional capital of Mekelle. However, the fighting is still going on, there are reports of massacres, rapes and widespread famine.
The United States, which has historically been an ally of Ethiopia but has been increasingly critical of the Tigris conflict, has expressed concern about the conditions under which the vote will take place.
The arrest of prominent opposition leaders, part of the ethnic conflict that is raging in the country, “poses an obstacle to a free and fair election, will Ethiopians perceive them as credible,” State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said last week.
“Of particular concern is the exclusion of the majority of voters from this competition due to security issues and internal displacement,” he added.
The European Union (EU) announced in May that it would not send observers to polling stations, citing key issues such as communications, the independence of observers and disagreements with the government.
The Oromo Federalist Congress և The Oromo Liberation Front, Oromia’s two most popular parties in the country’s most populous region, withdrew from the race, protesting that their candidates had been arrested and their offices vandalized.
But supporters of opposition parties running in Wednesday’s election took to the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa, entering city squares, blocking noisy marches, singing and dancing.
The Balderas party, whose leader is behind bars, marched through the city center in a large procession led by men on horseback, followed by a line of ear-splitting loudspeakers.
“We are gathering for the people, even if we do not believe that this vote will be completely free or fair,” said Zebiba Ibrahim, a 25-year-old opposition candidate.
“We do everything possible to make our voices heard.”
In Meskel Square, in the heart of the capital, another opposition party, Ezema, gathered supporters, wrapped in Ethiopian flags, chanting slogans for the latest rally.
“In the previous election, you could not hold rallies, you could not do anything,” said Temesgen Getahun, a 37-year-old hotel employee who watched the upcoming celebrations.
“If you took to the streets, you were imprisoned. Given that election, this one is good.”