Citizens of Africa’s second-most populous country, Ethiopia will head to the polls on Monday, June 21st amid various burning topics; threats to democracy and an economic development programme that threatens the nation’s diplomatic relationships.
Ethiopia will hold its sixth parliamentary and regional council election on Monday as there’s ongoing unrest in the northernmost and powerful Tigray region.
Ahead of the elections, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) had since Thursday announced four days of silent campaigns. Prime Minister of the nation and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed Ali insists he is committed to ensuring Ethiopia is set on a democratic path with its election.
The nation of more than 110 million people, however must deal with the voluntary-exclusion of some of the strongest regional political parties in the country. Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the most followed parties by the Oromo people have already withdrawn from the elections due to complaints about the handling of the upcoming polls by the Abiy-led government.
Conflicts, Delays and An Election
Previously slated for August 2020, the election was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that sent the nation spiralling into a conflict it is yet to put out.
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), arguably Ethiopia’s strongest political party went against the Prime Minister’s postponement and called it a move to stay in power beyond his tenure. The TPLF had ruled Ethiopia for three decades before the emergence of Abiy Ahmed.
The rejection of the postponement saw TPLF forces attack state properties, and they were soon charged at by the Ethiopian forces, who according to the United Nations Human Rights agency may have committed war crimes.
In November, the Prime Minister announced a final offensive launch on the TPLF forces, yet, more than six months on, there are still Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers in Tigray with allegations of robbery, rape and stealing of animals continually leveled against them.
The election was further postponed to the 5th of June and then postponed again to the 21st of June by the NEBE.
Voting To Have Second Round In Some Regions
Electoral body in Ethiopia, NEBE announced on June 6 that some Somali states and Harari region will not have their own elections until the 6th of September owing to irregularities in the printing of ballot papers.
Troubled regions like Tigray, central Oromia region and Metekel zone in Benishangul Gumuz regional state may not have elections unless there’s an improvement in the security situation. As it stands, 78 of the 547 constituencies will not be voting on Monday.
A Game of Numbers
Of Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people, there are 50 million eligible voters and of these 50 million, 37.4 million have been registered to vote.
About 50% of all registered voters in the country are female and there are 49,407 voting stations and 23,000 workers recruited to operate during the elections.
In 10 regional states, 547 federal parliamentarians and local council heads are expected to be voted into office, with many national and regional parties running for different seats, either on a national front or as representatives of their ethnic groups.
There are 47 parties in Ethiopia for this election and 125 independent contenders have registered 9,300 candidates. Of these candidates, about 2,000 are female and the total number is the highest number of candidates in an election.
NEBE has certified 36 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and 134,000 observers have been granted approval to observe the election proceedings.
The leader of the party that emerges with the highest number of parliamentarians in the House of People’s Representatives will emerge Prime Minister.
An Election & A Collision of the Coalition
When former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in 2018 following protests and citizens’ revolt, there was a gap to be filled by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF). The ruling party is a coalition of four of Ethiopia’s strongest political parties including the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) to which Abiy Ahmed belonged, the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the TPLF.
The ODP was largely favoured by the public to provide the next leader of the coalition but its most favoured candidate and Chairman at the time, Lemma Megersa wasn’t a parliamentarian which constitutionally didn’t deem him fit to become Prime Minister. Abiy Ahmed was in the Parliament and was elected as the Chairman of the ruling party, against Gebremicahel Debretsion of the TPLF, Demeke Mekkonen who is the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ADP and SEPDM leader, Shiferaw Shegute.
Debretsion and Shegute and their members were against Abiy Ahmed’s emergence but he won by convincing the ADP with its leader retaining his seat as the Deputy Prime Minister.
Following his victory in 2018, Abiy Ahmed formed the Prosperity Party from the constituents of the ruling party in 2019 but the TPLF refused to join. The Tigrayan party and paramilitary movement which ruled from 1991 to 2018 has been banned from participating in the elections following its alleged attack on the state.
Expectations from the Peace Prize Winner
Abiy Ahmed, a man from Oromo faces a division amongst his people with some of the oldest parties in the region and the country, OLF and OFC withdrawing from the elections citing the government’s attempt to influence it in favour of the ruling party.
The Prime Minister also faces the things he preached against with troubles in the different parts of the country asking questions of his readiness and competence. He’s also spearheading his first election as Prime Minister and all eyes are on the Horn of Africa.
Diplomatic rows with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or yes, and citizens calling for development of the country, Monday’s election will go a long way in honing Ethiopia’s future.