Ethiopians prepare to vote in crisis polls amid conflict escalation Elections News

After some deliberation, Shimelis Johannes * decided to register for a delayed vote in Ethiopia general elections on Monday.

“I took a ballot paper because it is better than sitting at the polls,” said a civil servant in the capital, Addis Ababa. But he quickly added that he had no illusions about the vote, which was overshadowed by conflicts in the northern Tigris region, instability elsewhere and widespread indifference.

“I do not think that my vote will change or determine the future direction of Ethiopia, but at least I can say for myself that I tried my best,” said Johannes, who will support the opposition party.

Although he is among the 38 million people registered to vote in the national-regional parliamentary elections, Brooke Gemechu, * who lives in Shashemene, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa, says he will abstain.

The private sector expert says that Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, has no credible opposition parties to compete with Prime Minister Abi Ahmed’s Prosperity Party (PP) after the two most prominent ethnic Oromo political parties, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo. Federal Congress (OFC) – decided to boycott the polls. Parties claim the election has no legitimacy, citing inability to compete, with top leaders and party members behind bars and other members subjected to physical violence.

“Local PP cadres have been forcing vulnerable sections of society to take out voter registration cards, and now they face punishment if they vote for several candidates from other opposition parties,” Gemechu said.

The staff of the National Electoral Council explain to people how to vote in the upcoming elections [Amanuel Sileshi/AFP]

The youth of Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, who make up about 35 percent of the country’s estimated 110 million people, have been at the forefront of two and a half years of anti-government protests that brought Abi to power in April 2018.

However, Abi has since fallen out with many of the leaders of the Oromo youth movement. Several leading members of the OFC, including Aw Avar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, remain behind bars on terrorism charges in connection with the riots following the assassination of last year’s famous Oromo musician and activist Hacalu Hundesa.

However, PP claims that the elections will be free and fair. The first in Ethiopia. Monday’s polls mark the sixth since Mengistu Haile Mariam’s overthrow in 1991.

“The ruling party is extremely ready for democracy … The public wants it very much,” said PP’s Bikila Wold. “While these opportunities are there, the challenges are also very clear, as Ethiopia has long had an extremely polarized political system known for its dictatorial regimes. “Modern, civilized political exercises are scarce in this country.”

While the ruling party was campaigning for the vote, which was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed first by the coronavirus epidemic and then by logistical challenges as an opportunity to ease the temperature of a polarized political environment, some fear it could backfire.

Adis Abeba, an analyst who did not want to be named, citing the alleged political climate, said the polls would take place against the backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases, locust infestations, and a “turbulent economy” in the Tigris region, which is completely dependent on the region. from help. “

The seven-month war in the Tigris is estimated to have killed thousands, if not more, and displaced some two million. The UN warned this week that 350,000 were on hunger strike.

“The Ethiopian Armed Forces, which should have been tasked with transporting election materials, are involved in the Tigris conflict, as well as in the fight against angry insurgents in various parts of the Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions,” the analyst said. “I think it is incomprehensible that the PP is currently gaining electoral legitimacy from the election.”

Recognizing the security and logistical challenges facing different parts of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian National Electoral Council (NEBE) announced earlier this month that nearly one-fifth of Ethiopia’s 547 polling stations would not be open to the public.

NEBE has said that voting in non-participating constituencies will take place next week on September 6, but the 38-seat Tigray is ruled out indefinitely.

“I see only one constituency, which is represented in the polls. “It’s the urban elites and the Amhara region,” he said.

Although PP is the leader in winning the majority of seats, it is expected to face a serious electoral challenge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s second most populous Amhara region.

A number of opposition figures have already publicly stated that the acceptance of the results is conditioned by the fairness of the vote count.

In 2005, about 200 protesters killed about 200 police actions against the unarmed protesters, as well as six policemen against the unknown protesters, as well as six policemen against the unarmed protesters of the elections.

And Johannes, the analyst, shared his concerns about possible post-election violence in two areas that are seen as more competitive, but Abin predicted in his pre-election rally on Wednesday that the election would be peaceful.

“The whole world says we will fight, but we will show them otherwise,” iy ibn’s supporters told Imma City supporters. “I say to all the Ethiopians [engaged] “In the struggle to secure a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Ethiopia,” added the prime minister, who in early June accused “traitors” and “outsiders” of working to undermine Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa police officers dressed in riot gear take part in a parade to show off their new uniform [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

On Saturday, not four8 hours after the election opened the election, the police officers in the center of Adis Ababa took part in the parade, which was allegedly demonstrated by new uniforms of police forces.

For the analyst, even if fears of post-election violence do not materialize, the short-term future of post-election Ethiopia is not rosy.

“I do not see the election changing, not the deteriorating security environment, nor the growing pressure from parts of the international community,” he said.

“I see the Tigray’s military impasse between the Ethiopian rebel army, backed by Eritrean forces in the southern Amhara region, as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Disappointed Oromo youth continue to join the Oromo Liberation Army.” “OLA) rebel movement,” the analyst added.

“The sanctions imposed by the Western powers (in connection with the Tigris War) are likely to increase, and the consequences must first affect the lower classes of society before they reach high-ranking government officials.”

* The name was changed to protect their identity

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