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Ethiopian opposition parties demand electoral law reforms

Ethiopian Opposition need changes to the electoral law. Can the reform oriented government of Abiy Ahmed deliver it before the next national election?

Ethiopian Opposition
Prime minister Abiy Ahmed meeting with Opposition leaders
Photo : EBC

July 22,2018
Updated on July 22, 2018 at 12:51 EDT

Leaders of Ethiopian Opposition parties demanded for electoral law and election practice reforms. They raised the issue during a meeting with Ethiopian Prime minister Abiy Ahmed today.

Leaders of the opposition parties have reportedly hailed gestures for improved political space in the country including the release of political political prisoners in different parts of the country. They also reportedly commended government foreign policy initiatives to bring about peace in the region, reference to rapprochement with Eritrea – a country which remained in a state of war with Ethiopia for more than two decades.

The meeting was attended by more than fifty national and regional parties leaders, according to a report by state media – Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.

National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has been criticized by the Ethiopian opposition for lack of independence and for being manipulated by the ruling party.

Apart from outright harassment of opposition party leaders and supporters, the electoral process, from previous experiences, exhibited unfair practice in terms of providing opposition an opportunity to use government funded media outlets to engage voters while the ruling party benefited from unlimited access to it.

Currently, there is no single opposition voice in the Ethiopian parliament as the ruling party, which is projecting an image that it is transforming itself along the lines of democracy and rule of law, claiming that it won all the parliamentary seats in the last national election.

Ethiopia remained essentially a one party estate dominated by the ruling coalition of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which is composed of four ethnic based parties. Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Amhara National Democratic Movement(ANDM) constitute two of the largest ethnic based parties in EPRDF. Unlike the case in some African countries where ethnic and religion based parties are outlawed,many of the opposition parties in Ethiopia, including the opposition coalition MEDREK, are ethnic based parties which sounds alarming given the fact that ethnic based violence is growing the country.

If what Abiy Ahmed says is true, a single party system could be history soon.

He reportedly said “Given our current politics, there is no option except pursuing a multiparty democracy supported by strong institutions that respects human rights and rule of law. This will allow us to mediate our differences peacefully and to ensure lasting progress…,” as cited by chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s office – Fitsum Arega.

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