Ethiopia’s Upcoming General Elections Marred by Boycotts

Addis Ababa, April 20, 2021 (EthioHeadlines) – Ethiopia is slated to hold its 6th general elections on June 5, 2021. The elections should have taken place on 29 August 2020 but were postponed on the pretext of Covid-19 outbreak by the Ethiopian National Elections Board (NEBE), which the opposition accuses of being controlled by the party in power.

Ethiopia’s 2015 parliamentary and regional elections were marred by reports of voter coercion, intimidation, and registration barriers. The opposition accused the EPRDF – the predecessor of the PM Abiy’s Prosperity Party, PP) – of tightly controlling the elections in which it lost the only parliamentary seat it had won in the previous elections. All 547 seats in the House of People’s Representatives were taken by the EPRDF in the 2015 elections.

Major political parties that are presummed to command overwhelming support in the federal states are boycotting the 2021 elections questioning the independence of the NEBE, and citing high level of intimidations and harassments by the party in power – the PP.

In Oromia, the largest and most populace state in the federation, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) said they are pushed out in a calculated move by the government that herded most of their leaders in to prison and closed down their offices. In Somali, the third largest state, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a strong contender against the PP affiliated Somali Democratic Party (SDP), is not taking part in the election either. In Tigray, the fourth largest state, elections are cancelled, as there is active hostility between the Tigrayan Defense Forces (TDF) and the allied forces of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Troops and Amhara militia and Special Forces.

According to NEBE, as of Aprli 14, 2021, Afar and Somali regions have not started voter registration. Wollega and Benishangul-Gumuz are among other regions where voter registrations have not started due to acute insecurity situation.

In a recent televised debate representatives of the Prosperity party (Prime Minister Abiy’s ruling party), Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (aligned with the PM’s party), National Movement of Amhara (aligned with Amhara wing of the PM’s party), Freedom and Equality Party, and Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party spared on different issues. Non-Amhara political parties in the country accused these parties of wanting to reinstate a unitary system centered around Amhara religion, culture, language by abolishing the current multinational federation.

Ethiopia has a federation of 10 states that are homes for over 86 nations, nationalities, and peoples. According to many observers, 9 of the 10 states and the overwhelming majority of their population back the multinational federal structure that allows for self-governance, development of their respective cultures, languages, and social norms. What is notable is that no political party that embodies the aspirations of these nations are on the debate stage.  According to the UK based Freedom House “Freedom in the World 2021” rating, Ethiopia received a grade of 22 out of 100 and is rated, “NOT FREE”.

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