News / Africa

Ethiopia's Biggest Electoral Prize Divided As Election Nears

Next Sunday's election in Ethiopia is a contest for 547 seats in the House of People's Representatives, or parliament. Of those,  a third are in Oromia, a vast farming region that stretches almost all the way across the nation's midsection, south to the Kenyan border and north to Addis Ababa.  The contest for Ethiopia's biggest electoral prize is partly ideological, and partly a simple matter of survival.

The usual sputter of three-wheeled scooter taxis on Ambo's main street is overpowered these days by car-mounted loudspeakers preaching political gospel. Sunday is election day.

Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi (File)
Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi (File)

The ruling party in this region is the Oromo People's Democratic Organization, effectively the Oromo wing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front.

The OPDO and EPRDF control the patronage here. The Zone Administrator, Yohannes Mituku is also a candidate for parliament. He tells VOA the party's good works have earned it the people's support.

"We work for peace, development and democracy. In this regard we have done various activities that are really tangible and have benefited society," said Mituku.

Most analysts of Ethiopian politics expect the ruling party to win Oromia easily, if only because of its tight control over almost every aspect of Ethiopians' lives. And Oromia, with its 178 seats in parliament, is the country's biggest electoral prize.

But Oromia has been a hotbed of anti-EPRDF sentiment.  It is home to a shadowy separatist group known as the Oromo Liberation Front.

Western Oromia voted heavily for opposition parties five years ago, and a local politician, Merera Gudina is a leader of the so-called Medrek coalition that is the EPRDF's main challenger this time.

Merera says this election is about whether 19 years of Prime Minister Meles's concept of Revolutionary Democracy and a developmental state has moved Ethiopia toward democratic pluralism , or toward becoming a de facto one-party state.

"The developmental state is Meles's hypocrisy," he said.  "Meles is building the Chinese type of democratic centralism, top down approach, the hegemony of one party, and he calls it developmental.  What development? This country is one of the poorest on earth.  One of the five or six poorest," said Merera.

There is no scientific polling done in Ethiopia, but a sampling of public opinion shows deep divisions. In one neighborhood where government employees live, people speak warmly of the progress the country has made under EPRDF rule.

Yirba Hailemariam was a soldier in the army of the Dergue regime of the Marxist dictator Mengistu Hailemariam. But he says life has been better since the current government overthrew the Dergue in 1991.  

"Ever since the EPRDF has come to power, it has engaged itself in development work and making sure people have food," he said.

Housewife Bekelech Hailu stands in a field watching her sons play soccer. She says she is pleased with the progress she has seen under Prime Minister Meles.

"The government has done so much for us. My choice will be the ruling party again this time," she said.

But on the other side of town, there is another, darker view. People speak carefully; they hesitate to give their names. A teacher, who identified himself only as Biyaza calls conditions 'very dangerous'.

"The election is not free in Ethiopia. People are afraid, afraid of the government," said the teacher.

A middle aged woman standing in front of a broken gate gives her name only as Worknesh. She is uneasy about expressing her preference to strangers.

"I know in my heart who I'll be voting for, and I'll vote for what my heart tells me," she said.

The rallies and ad campaigns must end Friday, 48 hours before the polls open. Only then people will know whether they can get back to their normal lives, or whether, like last time, the results will trigger demonstrations and violence in the streets. The suspense is palpable.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid