Concern over Ethiopian election result

Ethiopia’s ruling party and its allies won 99,6% of the parliamentary seats in Sunday’s election, according to preliminary results, raising serious questions over the country’s democratic direction.

The electoral board announced that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party (EPRDF) secured 499 out of the 547 seats, with allied parties winning a further 35. Opposition candidates won just two seats. Results from some constituencies are still outstanding.

The result is a significant reversal from the 2005 poll, where the opposition made large gains despite questions over the fairness of the vote. The subsequent imprisonment or exile of opposition leaders, coupled with a curb on basic freedoms, meant that Sunday’s triumph for the ruling party was expected, though not its scale.

The victory means that Meles will have been in power in Africa’s second-most populous country for almost 25 years by the time of the next election. Addressing a crowd of tens of thousands from behind a bulletproof screen in the capital, Addis Ababa, he warned that opposition protests of the sort that saw 200 people killed — mostly by security forces — after the 2005 election would not be tolerated.

Meles vowed to work with the opposition on “matters of national concern” and asked foreign countries, which give Ethiopia more than £1billion a year in aid despite concerns over its poor human rights record, to accept the result. But the United States state department said this week that the election did not meet international standards, and the EU mission also qualified its opinion.

Its chief observer, Thijs Berman, said that, while the vote was peaceful and well-organised, he was concerned about the “sheer volume and consistency” of reports of intimidation and harassment in the lead-up.

He also criticised the use of state funds in the EPRDF campaign, saying: “Everyone was equal, but some were more equal than others.”

Berman added that, while these shortcomings may not have affected the overall outcome, there will be widespread scepticism over the extent of Meles’s victory.

In 2005, the EPRDF and its allies won 327 seats. The economy has grown since then and services such as health and education have been extended, which would have won Meles some new support. A lack of organisation and coherent policy proposals among the opposition, including the Medrek coalition that was expected to provide the stiffest challenge, also played into the government’s hands.

But at the same time, Meles’s clampdown on dissent, particularly in the media, among civil society groups and from opposition politicians, has caused widespread discontent, especially in urban centres. —

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Hard-hit municipalities brace for more deaths

South Africa’s Covid-19-related deaths have been comparatively lower than the rest of the world. But municipalities are preparing for the worst

Eusebius McKaiser: Ramaphosa may want to swap title of president...

The president and the National Coronavirus Command Council have turned taxis into vectors of death

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday