Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia’s main opposition party on Friday condemned weekend elections, which saw the ruling party cruise back into office, as a “disgrace” and proof the country was a one-party state.
According to preliminary results from last Sunday’s elections, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn secured all 442 parliamentary seats so far declared out of the 547 seats up for grabs.
The EPRDF, in power in Africa’s second-most populous nation for over two decades, were widely expected to secure a near clean sweep of parliament, and the outgoing chamber had just one opposition MP — but even this was taken by the ruling party.
“The Blue Party does not accept the process as free and fair and does not accept the outcome of unhealthy and undemocratic elections,” the main opposition party said.
“This 100 percent win by the regime is a message of disgrace” and shows that a “multi-party system is over in Ethiopia”.
Ahead of Sunday’s polls the opposition alleged the government had used authoritarian tactics to guarantee victory — such as intimidation, refusing to register candidates or arresting supporters.
The Blue Party’s spokesman, Yonatan Tesfaye, alleged that 200 party candidates were denied the right to stand for parliament and 52 party members were arrested in the run-up to the polls.
“We don’t think there is an independent justice system to deal with our complaints. We’ll continue our peaceful struggle,” he told reporters.
After the elections, the United States, which enjoys close security cooperation with Ethiopia, also said it remained “deeply concerned by continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views.”
The European Union also said true democracy had yet to take root in Ethiopia, and voiced concern over “arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, closure of a number of media outlets and obstacles faced by the opposition in conducting its campaign.”
The African Union observer mission, however, described the polling as “credible” and “generally consistent with the AU guidelines on the conduct of elections in Africa.”
On Wednesday government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said the win came as the result of Ethiopia’s economic advances.
“Voters have credited the ruling party for the economic progress it introduced in the country,” he told AFP. “In view of the weak, fragmented opposition and the lack of a viable alternative, it was very likely that the ruling party would win in a landslide.”