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Ethiopian PM deepens campaign ahead of August election

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is deepening his election campaign in SNNPR of the country. He seems to be getting warm receptions. Will that translate to vote for Prosperity Party?

Election Campaign _ Abiy Ahmed
PM Abiy Ahmed as he arrived in Halaba stadium. Photo credit : office of the Prime Minister

February 26, 2020

The National Election Board of Ethiopia announced the official election date on February 14, 2020. Based on that, campaigns are supposed to take place between May 24 and August 24, which is five days before the election.

The law does not allow campaigns before the official campaign dates. But that does not seem to be a problem for some ethnic Oromo nationalist parties and the ruling Prosperity Part.

Campaigns are well underway, mostly in the Oromo region and SNNPR in the guise of “support rallies.”

Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), presumed to be on one the heavyweight ethnic Oromo nationalist party competing for power in the region, kicked off the informal campaign as early as late December 2019 when Jawar Mohammed, a radical activist with U.S citizenship, joined the party. The controversy between the party and the Election Board over the citizenship issues is still unsettled. The party has a feel of power and thinks that it could bypass laws. The Board is adhering to the rules of the game in the interest of making the election credible; it demanded the party to submit Jawar’s certificate of Ethiopian citizenship.

Turn out for OFC “support rallies” was significant. Significant enough that it lured radical Oromo nationalists that “Federalist Forces” would win the next Federal Election.

The campaigns in Shewa, Arsi, Bale, and Harar ( all in the Oromo region of Ethiopia) might have triggered the urge to on the part of Prosperity Party ( Abiy Ahmed’s party) to launch his support rallies.

Over the past few weeks, rallies after rallies were organized in many towns in the Oromo region and SNNPR. It started in Jimma, where the Prime Minister anticipates a win when the time comes.

That Jimma one did not just support rally to Abiy Ahmed; it was also a rally against what Prosperity Party supporters in the region called “insult” against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and people in the region. “It is just the land that is good in Jimma, not the people,” a statement allegedly from OFC leaders has angered many.

Now Abiy Ahmed himself is deepening his campaigns outside of the Oromo region of Ethiopia. He is targeting SNNP regions. Last week, there was a good campaign time in Silte where tens of thousands of residents came out to crowd the stadium in the town.

Abiy Ahmed _ Halaba Campaign
Abiy Ahmed during town hall meetings with community members in Kiltu Halaba

Infrastructural development and economic issues are the major questions that he is facing, which seem to have been ideal in that all he has to do is to pledge he will do something about it.

Today, he traveled to Halaba Zone of SNNPR- where he got another massive turn out in Halaba Kulito Stadium. As is always the case whenever he travels in the country, he had a town hall meeting with residents. Again, the questions he faced are, based on the EBC report, mostly economic and infrastructure nature.

Meanwhile, the support rallies for Abiy Ahmed’s party in the Oromo region of Ethiopia is still underway. Today, for example, there was a massive rally in Ghimbi. The rally in Abmo (believed to be OFC stronghold) two days ago saw a security incident as 29 people, mostly equestrians, were wounded following a grenade attack.

Well ahead of schedule, the campaign is well underway. Some opposition parties have a complaint about it but for a different reason.

Chairman of Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party, Berhanu Nega, had a press statement at the Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa on Wednesday. He accused the Prosperity Party of carrying out election campaigns with finances from the public coffer. The fact that an election campaign is underway ahead of schedule does not seem to be an issue. The Election Board itself is silent about it.

There are those opposition parties who insist that the election should not take place in August of this year on the grounds of security and other factors. On Friday, last week, the council passed a decision with a majority vote that the election has to be postponed.

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