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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid