Ethiopian polls just a 'show' says opposition

Ethiopian polls just a 'show' says opposition

By Laura Angela Bagnetto

More than 36 million people in Ethiopia have registered to vote for the upcoming elections on Sunday, but opposition leaders say it will be more important to watch the country in the aftermath of the polls. Some 57 opposition parties are running for 547 parliamentary seats, with the ruling EPRDF party slated to take almost all positions, including Hailemariam Desalegn as premier.

The founder and president of the banned Oromo Democratic Front group, Leenco Lata, said that this is par for the course in Ethiopia.

“The ruling party will never participate in an election whose outcome is not already pre-determined. This is just a show,” Lata told RFI.

“It criticises the opposition for not articulating an alternative leader. And the outcome of this election is very well known for two reasons: one, the ruling party is the richest, and the most organised party in the country. The opposition is fragmented and faces huge amounts of harassment, so I think the ruling party will win, there may be some protests, but inconsequential ones,” he added.

However, another opposition leader in exile, Berhanu Nega, head of opposition Ginbot 7 group, said that resistance to the government could move quickly.

“On the one hand, they make it sound like they are afraid of the elections, but the truth is that they are afraid of what is going to happen following the election,” he said. “Everybody is so literally disgusted by what is going on in the country that they are afraid that anything can explode,” he added.

Nega said that the Ethiopian government called for a public demonstration after the Islamic State armed group (ISIS) killed Ethiopians in Libya only because they were forced to do something.

“The government called this mass rally in opposition to ISIS, but it ended up being an opposition [protest] against the government itself,” he said.

“The people were saying: ‘You are the ones calling for this. You are the ones making life so unbearable that we have to leave en masse. You are the ones beating us and torturing us and killing us,’” said Nega.

“So it became a clear manifestation of the disgust of people that they know something can really strike and explode. This is what they’re afraid of and this is why they have to control every aspect of it,” he added.

Western countries, which are not sending election observers to Ethiopia on Sunday, have played a role in giving Ethiopia aid in exchange for helping to thwart terrorism in the region. Nega believes that supporting the West's agenda does not fit in with the need for Ethiopians to live freely.