Ethiopian elections: will the delayed polls reflect the past? | Election News

The elections in Ethiopia are less than two weeks away, but various insecurity and logistical issues, as well as representation issues, may cast a shadow over the country’s twice-delayed national opinion polls.

In a televised speech in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised Ethiopians that they would be able to vote to shape the country’s destiny.However, as bleed The unstable situation in northern Tigray and elsewhere continues to cause losses to civilians, and the candidate will provide Abiy with the toughest electoral challenge Stay in jail, The enthusiasm of some Ethiopians continued to weaken.

Haimanot Tsegaye, a graduate student in the capital Addis Ababa, said: “I don’t have much hope for this process. I just want peace.”

“Nowadays, anything can cause violence.”

The sixth election

The June 21 poll of 547 seats in the Ethiopian House of Representatives will be the sixth vote since the overthrow of the Mengistu Haile Mariam communist government in 1991. But they will also be the first time that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) four-party coalition has been declared a winner in the first five games, including the last one in 2015, when it was damaged by allegations of intimidation by voters. All seats were won in the process.

Under its nearly 30-year rule, the government led by EPRDF used mass arrests and state violence to suppress critics. In 2005, the police suppressed unarmed protesters who took to the streets to denounce election violations, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 demonstrators.

Dissatisfaction with growing authoritarianism intensified popular uprisings and eventually paved the way for Abiy to come to power three years ago. At that time, Abi, who was only 41 years old and the youngest leader in Africa, promised to overhaul the government and implement democratic reforms. The ultimate goal is to achieve free and fair elections by 2020-the first time in history.

After taking power in 2018, Abiy fired many EPRDF officials who saw the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) end the alliance’s dominance. The following year, he disbanded the entire EPRDF alliance and invited the member parties to merge into a unified Prosperity Party (PP). However, the Tigray elite hesitated to merge into the PP and retreated to Tigray, where the TPLF still ruled the regional government until the outbreak of the war in November 2020.

PP Party officials argued that the dissolution of EPRDF would reduce social division and strengthen democracy in Africa’s second most populous country, which is made up of more than 80 ethnic groups.

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Qatar Samia Zekaria said: “Since 2018, the government has taken a series of measures to expand democratization by expanding political space and creating an enabling environment for democratic practice.” “It has repeatedly reiterated its guarantees. A firm oath of free elections and a firm belief that this is the only legal way to achieve a peaceful transition of power.”

Ethiopia under Abidjan

As part of the radical change, parties that were banned for a long time in the EPRDF era were decriminalized. Famous opposition figures were released from prison or invited to return from exile and participate in the country’s fledgling democratic process without fear of persecution.

At the same time, the appointment of Birtukan Mideksa as the chairman of the National Election Board (NEB) further inspires optimism. Birtukan is a well-known former political opposition leader. He was imprisoned twice after the controversial election in 2005. He spent nearly 40 months in prison. This choice was welcomed by observers, who considered it to be The authenticity of the reform movement.

In March 2020, NEB announced that it would postpone the election of that year by one year on the grounds of the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision angered most of the country’s political opponents, who accused the ruling party of illegally extending its term of office on the pretext of the pandemic. The government denied this accusation.

In June 2020, the Addis Ababa-based Valderas for the Real Democratic Opposition announced that if no elections are held, it will call for protests before October 2020, when Abi’s initial term will expire period.

But just a few weeks after the announcement, the party’s leader Eskinder Nega (Eskinder Nega was one of the political prisoners ordered to be released in 2018) was arrested again and accused of inciting after June 29 Violence murder Pop musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa.

Many other well-known election candidates and critics of Abi, including the highly influential Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) party duo Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba ), which eventually became a large-scale round up of critics of the government.

Polls Second postponement Last month, Eskinder, Jawar, and Bekele were still in custody on logistical issues including training electors and printing and distributing ballots. They were all charged with crimes related to terrorism.

“No, if party leaders go to jail, these elections will not be close to freedom and fairness,” said OFC Chairman Merera Gudina (Merera Gudina). “These elections lack legitimacy. Members of the ruling party are now asking people to produce voter registration documents to obtain oil, sugar and other amenities. They are forcing people to register to increase the low turnout rate due to lack of interest.”

Mereira’s political party said it would boycott the election on the grounds that it cannot compete while the main leaders and party members are still in detention. OFC enjoys considerable prestige among the country’s Oromo population. They account for about one-third of the country’s 110 million population and took the lead in protests, which eventually led to Abi’s appointment as prime minister.

The only other party that can compete with OFC for influence among the Oromo people is the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a former combat organization that gave up for decades at Abi’s invitation in 2018 The armed struggle has joined party politics. OLF members have also been arrested.

“Most young people in Oromo lost hope in the process. Many people can’t even tell you when the election date is,” said Yeroon Tolasaa, a lecturer at the University of Addis Ababa. “The Oromo people are not represented in the election.”

At the same time, Tigray will not vote. The seven-month conflict between the federal army and the former ruler of the region has resulted in the destruction of its institutions and infrastructure, and the partial takeover of the army joined by neighboring Eritrea. Support the conflict in Addis Ababa.

Last year, Tigray ignored the federal government’s order to postpone the vote and conducted his own rogue poll. TPLF was announced as the winner of these polls and has since been designated as a “terrorist organization” by the federal government.

Who is running?

Due to the lack of strong opposition from two key regions, these regions are the strongholds of the country’s political opposition, and there is a clear lack of diversity between the remaining election hopes and the Welfare Party’s competitors.

One of the political forces competing in the upcoming polls is the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (known for its Amharic acronym Ezema), which is led by Berhanu Nega, who was in the controversial 2005 Election for mayor of Addis Ababa in the annual election. The Enat Party, which was formed about a year ago, will send more than 500 candidates.

Among the top 10 opposition parties in the number of candidates, 8 have a support base in Addis Ababa. Most people have little contact outside the Ethiopian capital.

“These elections will not be competitive,” said Goitom Gebreleul, a political analyst and researcher for Horn of Africa affairs. “But perhaps the most destructive fact is that there is only one representative of the main social constituency in the polls. This will belittle the ideals of democracy and human rights, and will have an adverse effect on society.”

In the past month, several televised election debates have been held, covering many topics. With the exception of the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) party, almost all opposition parties participating in the debate are from Addis Ababa.

The two debate sessions held in April in Afaen Oromo, Ethiopia, may best demonstrate the lack of diversity. The debate arranged for the Oromia audience did not establish a political party in the Oromia region.

At the same time, although the Tigray War is one of the most pressing issues in the country, discussions during the election debate have been completely ignored because reports of increasing atrocities and starvation, as well as allegations of weaponized rape and ethnic cleansing, have been A warning was triggered: an imminent humanitarian disaster. It is estimated that 90% of Tigray’s residents, or 5.2 million people, need emergency food assistance.

Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on Ethiopian officials on the grounds that they failed to take serious measures to end the war that has killed thousands or more and displaced nearly 2 million people. Also in May, the EU cancelled its plan to send election observers to Ethiopia, ostensibly due to communication problems. Followed by five U.S. senators called for the postponement of the polls, which they described as “currently unable to meet international standards of freedom, fairness, and transparency.”

“Major political and legal reforms”

However, the Ethiopian government insists that it has ensured inclusiveness and that this year’s elections will be very different from past practices.

Ambassador Samia said: “Our history is undermined by an undemocratic political culture, that is, the ruler came to power and was driven away by guns. The upcoming June elections will be held after major political and legal reforms.”

At the same time, the Ethiopian court recently ordered NEB to allow imprisoned candidates from Valderras’s real Democratic Party-including leader Eskind-to participate in the election.

The agency initially stated that it would not be able to fulfill the court order due to logistic and time constraints, but later stated that the Valderas party will have an exception, which means that it can participate in the election of its leader in prison.

As most of Ethiopia’s political opponents withdrew from the race, some observers worry that the polls may exacerbate dissatisfaction with the government.

“Flawed elections have accumulated resentment among the people. We know this in Ethiopia because election manipulation under the previous regime is one of the grievances now used to condemn TPLF,” said Nic Cheeseman, a writer and democracy professor at the University of Birmingham.

“If Abiy continues with the same flawed election, it will generate similar anger and frustration, repeating the cycle.”

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