The May 24 parliamentary elections in Ethiopia were described as “calm, peaceful and credible” by the African Union (AU) election observer mission, a claim being disputed by civil society groups.
“The AU Election Observers’ Mission concludes that the parliamentary elections were calm, peaceful and credible as it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls,” said mission head Hifikepunye Pohamba, a former Namibian president. Civil society groups are alleging that “free and fair,” two critical adjectives, were missing from the assessment by the AU, which was the only foreign election observer mission present when tens of millions of Ethiopians voted, even though Pohamba claimed the mission did not hear any reports of major violence or problems on election day. Before this election, the opposition accused the government of hindering their campaigns through arrests, harassment, intimidation and unequal access to funding. The government has denied the allegations. This is the first vote since the 2012 death of Meles Zenawi, who had led the nation since 1991, first as president, then as prime minister. Meles’ successor, former academic, Hailemariam Desalegn, is widely expected to stay in charge as head of the EPRDF by June 22 when final results are due.
- Campaign began officially on 14 February 2015, ending on 21 May 2015. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has claimed victory in every election since the fall of the Derg regime and the adoption of a new constitution in August 1995. The EPRDF, led by the late Meles Zenawi, claimed victory in the elections of 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010.
- The 2005 elections were marked by violence and became a turning point for the country. The late long-serving Meles Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 21 years.
- There are four dominant opposition political parties, namely Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), Blue Party (Semayawi), All Ethiopian Unity Party and All Ethiopian Democratic Party.
- The 2015 elections come at a time when the Ethiopian economy has made great strides. It has achieved an estimated 10 per cent growth, one of the highest in Africa.
- Ethiopia is the second biggest jailer of journalists after its neighbour, Eritrea. Its broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are dominated by the state, and the minimal private media sector is heavily regulated and frequently censored