Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies have won an overwhelming majority in parliament in last Sunday’s election, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced.
According to preliminary results, the ruling party secured all 442 parliamentary seats so far declared out of the 547 seats up for grabs according to Professor Merga Bekena, Chairman of NEBE.
According to the electoral board, EPRDF also took back the only seat that was held by the opposition, securing all 23 seats in Addis Ababa. In the last national elections held in 2010, opposition parties won only a single seat.
At a news conference held on Wednesday May 27, Merga confirmed EPRDF has won 80.8 percent of the total parliamentary seats. He said that the EPRDF, which is ruling the country since 1991, has also won 79.4 percent or 1,508 seats for regional councils.
Over 90 percent of the total registered 36.8 million people have cast their votes on Sunday’s national elections; the country’s first since Ethiopia’s long-time ruler Meles Zenawi, died in office in 2012.
Merga has commended the people’s active participation during the election which he said had witnessed huge turnout compared to previous elections.
He said Ethiopians had “really committed themselves to the development of democracy.”
Supporters of the country’s two largest opposition parties Blue Party and Medrek hope that the parties would secure seats this time however officials of the electoral board haven’t yet announce if any.
“Regarding the remaining results, we have to wait. According to our timetable we have time to gather, to collect and then publish it according to our schedule,” Merga said adding “but I cannot actually tell you how many remaining seats will be occupied by opposition or ruling party”.
Final election results will be announced on June 22.
The chairperson said that despite some minor problems the election was largely free and fair. “There were minor problems. For example, the ruling party Medrek and the Blue Party were caught campaigning on the election day at some stations but the board cautioned them to stop their campaign. Yet, I can say that we have conducted a successful election that can be a role model for other countries.”
The chairperson’s announcement pours frozen water on opposition parties declaring that they have not gained a single seat in the preliminary result. Addis Ababa, a stronghold of the oppositions in the 2005 election had voted 22 seats to Coalition for Unity and Democracy and one seat to Mederk in the 2010 election, turned its face to EPRDF giving all the 23 seats to the ruling party. Tigray thrones EPRDF to 31 seats out of the 38; Amhara giving 107 out of the 138; Oromia 150 out of 178; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region gave 95 out of 123; Benishangul Gumuz gave 7 out of 9 seats to EPRDF candidates.
The EPRD allies’ parties in, Gambella, Afar and Somali regions have won 25 seats out of 34 while the two seats of Dire Dawa city administration were entirely won by EPRDF and its ally, the Somali People Democratic Party. In Harriri, which also has two seats, vote was divided between the ruling party and its ally Hariri National League.
The Africa Union Observers Team, which was the only international observer mission, praised the election as peaceful. “The parliamentary election was calm, peaceful and credible as it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls,” said the mission Head Hifikepunye Pohamba, former Namibian president.
Pohamba said the mission did not hear any reports of major violence or problems on the election day. But, he said, observers reported that the ruling party allies were openly urging voters inside the polling stations to give their vote to EPRDF, and in some places polling stations opened before the stipulated 6 a.m. start time.
The European Union, although it did not observe the election due to budget constraints, in a statement said that the election was peaceful. “Ethiopia has peacefully concluded its pre-election process and voting, and many parties and participants have actively engaged in the process. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia has put hard work and organizational efforts into ensuring that as many of Ethiopia’s 36.8 million registered voters as possible had the chance to elect their leaders.”
The EU stressed that the arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, closure of a number of media outlets, and obstacles faced by the opposition in conducting their campaign have limited the space for an open debate and had a negative impact on the overall electoral environment. EU further noted that all parties need to adhere to the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Marie Harf, Deputy Department Spokesperson of the US State Department, in a stamen said “The US commends the people of Ethiopia for their civic participation in generally peaceful parliamentary and regional elections on May 24. We acknowledge the National Electoral Board’s organizational efforts and the African Union’s role as the only international observer mission on the ground.”
However it noted that there were some irregularities. “A free and vibrant media, space for civil society organizations to work on democracy and human rights concerns, opposition parties able to operate without impediment, and a diversity of international and domestic election observers are essential components for free and fair elections. The imprisonment and intimidation of journalists, restrictions on NGO activities, interference with peaceful opposition party activities, and government actions to restrict political space in the lead-up to election day are inconsistent with these democratic processes and norms.” “The United States has a broad and strong partnership with Ethiopia and its people. We remain committed to working with the Ethiopian Government and its people to strengthen Ethiopia’s democratic institutions, improve press freedom, and promote a more open political environment consistent with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations,’’ the statement further reads.