July 26, 2021

The legislative elections, Ethiopia’s historic failed chance

Nothing should have happened like this. The general elections, which finally took place in Ethiopia on June 21, and whose results were announced on Saturday July 10, ended with an admittedly resounding victory for the Prosperity Party, a new party in which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, instilled part of the reforming will that animated him, when he came to power in April 2018. But three regions out of ten were unable to vote, the war continues in the Tigray region, in the North , and instability threatens everywhere. On paper, however, the breakage will have been limited during this election, which was held against all odds after having been postponed several times since its initial date, August 29, 2020.

Read also Ethiopia votes amid concern and violence

What will be the meaning of this consultation? With 410 seats out of the 436 that were at stake (out of a total of 547), the Welfare Party dominates Parliament. Abiy Ahmed can therefore be elected by the deputies. “These are the freest, fairest and most rooted in pluralism that Ethiopia has ever known”, asserted the one who had been appointed by the former ruling coalition, the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples (EPRDF), in April 2018, to take over from Haile Mariam Dessalegn, in an atmosphere of exhaustion of power.

Repression

Abiy Ahmed had time, at the end of 2019, to carry out his plan to break up this coalition and replace it with the only Prosperity Party. But a certain number of parties, in particular those of the Oromia region (40 million inhabitants, the most populous), believe that the end of federalism amounts to ensuring the domination of a single tendency, that of the community of Amharas whose Prime Minister surrounded himself after falling out with Oromo officials, including his ex-mentor, Lemma Megersa.

Read also Ethiopia: in Oromia, strong mistrust dominates the legislative elections of June 21

This victory “Historical”, in Abiy Ahmed’s words on Saturday, is unlikely to play a significant role. The figures (more than 90% participation, in particular) cannot by themselves summarize the situation of the country. Historic, this election could have been. Abiy Ahmed came to the head of Ethiopia in 2018 after a long deterioration of the political environment, against a backdrop of repression and extreme attrition of the EPRDF, a coalition of four parties that had come to power in 1991, by overthrowing the communist DERG regime. This training was part of a precise constitutional framework, organized around the federalism of “nations” (regional ethnic groups). It was also, ultimately, only the rhetorical dressing of the domination of a minority party within it, the Popular Front for the Liberation of the People of Tigray (TPLF).

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