By Lisa Vives
In a vote the US called “significantly flawed,” Ethiopia’s “Prosperity Party”, headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, carried the majority of votes cast. Prime Minister Abiy hailed the election as Ethiopia’s first attempt at a free and fair vote.
The vote was a test for the Prime Minister, who will begin a second five-year term. It was delayed by the coronavirus twice and could not be held in some regions due to unrest, leaving seats empty in parliament.
Prosperity Party’s victory was hailed as a landslide for having captured 400 seats out of 436 in the vote held on June 21 and counted by the National Election Board of Ethiopia.
The leader of the main opposition Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party, Birhanu Nega, lost, while opposition parties won just 11 seats.
US observers said they were dismayed at the government’s detention of some opposition figures and for insecurity in parts of the country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a press statement, offered praise to the Ethiopians who cast ballots: “Democracy flourishes when institutions of governance are inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsive to its people. With that immutable fact in mind, the United States commends those Ethiopians who exercised their right to vote on June 21.
“Elections, however, are not in and of themselves a sufficient marker of democracy or genuine political reform. The June 21 elections in Ethiopia took place against a backdrop of grave instability, including increasing inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts, and an electoral process that was not free or fair for all Ethiopians.
“The boycott of the elections by opposition parties, the detention of vocal political leaders, and the ongoing violence in multiple parts of the country underscore the need to launch an inclusive effort to build a national consensus on the governance of Ethiopia that preserves the sovereignty and unity of the state and strengthens the constitutional order.”
Ethiopians must come together to confront growing divisions, he said. “We urge politicians and community leaders to reject violence and refrain from inciting others to violence.”
A likely famine declaration in Tigray demands urgent action, he added, as does a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Ethiopian territory, the transparent investigation of atrocities, and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need.
Popular opposition parties in the Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia’s federal states, boycotted the election. The ruling party ran alone in several dozen constituencies.
Chairing the election was Birtukan Mideksa, a former political prisoner once sentenced to life in prison, after which she spent time in exile in the U.S. In a letter to the U.S. Senate in May, she sought to manage expectations over the elections. “Shortfalls are inevitable given factors such as… a nascent democratic culture and an increasingly charged political and security environment.”
However, she added, “I want to confirm that we have managed to conduct a credible election.”