News / Africa

Tigray, a 'Battleground State' in Ethiopian Elections

Ethiopian PM and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) chairman Meles Zenawi, center (File Photo)
Ethiopian PM and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) chairman Meles Zenawi, center (File Photo)

Ethiopia's sparsely-populated Tigray region is shaping up as the focal point for the May 23rd elections for parliament. Tigray contributes only 6 percent of Ethiopia's 80 million people. But, it could hold the key to the country's political future.

Tigray might well be called Ethiopia's battleground state, in more ways than one.

A homegrown rebel group, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF, waged a guerrilla war in the 1970s and 80s that toppled the country's Soviet-backed military regime. During the war, Tigray was the epicenter of a famine that killed as many as a million people. It was also the front-line state in a war against Eritrea from 1998-2000, which claimed another 70,000 lives.

Today, the TPLF's leaders are Ethiopia's leaders. They comprise the core of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), starting with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

But with elections 2.5 weeks away, Tigray is again a battleground. After 19 years in power, the ruling party is facing its first significant electoral challenge in its stronghold. Moreover, it is a challenge from within, led by members of a breakaway TPLF faction.

The opposition's attack is aimed at two sensitive and emotional issues: the concept of Revolutionary Democracy that is the heart of the ruling party's ideology; and the troubled relationship with neighboring Eritrea.

Opposition spokesman and candidate for Tigray's regional parliament, Berhanu Berhe, calls Revolutionary Democracy a Marxist-Leninist recipe for a one-party dictatorship.

"Revolutionary Democracy is an ideology that categorizes society into class. Then some of the classes are enemies, the others are friends," said Berhe. "That is class analysis. And this class analysis is basically Leninist policy. Then this policy will crush the enemies using the friendly classes, and this does not work. The failure of the Soviet Union was this."

Aregash Adane was one of the TPLF's top women fighters during what is known as the 'armed struggle'. She is the opposition candidate challenging Prime Minister Meles.

Aregash once shared the dream of a revolutionary democratic state bringing justice and economic development to Ethiopia. She says 19 years of bitter experience has shown otherwise.

"We have to learn from our experiences. This is not a short period. And I do not think this Revolutionary Democracy will bring basic change in our country," she said. "It has proved a failure. Do we have to stay another 19 years to understand there is a failure in our country by the leadership of Revolutionary Democracy."

Criticism of Revolutionary Democracy infuriates ruling party officials. They call talk of dictatorship a 'ridiculous allegation' for which opposition leaders may be called to account after the election.

TPLF political chief, Tedros Hagos, says the question of who is right and who is wrong will be decided by voters.

"They have to prove why EPRDF is a dictatorship. It is an elected party. Ultimately, who's going to judge whether this government is a dictator or not is the people," said Tedros.

Tedros accuses opposition groups of making outrageous allegations to whip up passions among their supporters.

"They think allegation is a campaign tactic for their ultimate strategy, a strategy to instigate violence," said Tedros. "To remove the EPRDF through street violence."

Opposition leaders categorically deny favoring violence. They say any outbreak would be a setback to their strategy of building a strong base in the ruling party's back yard.

The ruling party has pledged to keep the peace, and authorities have invested in riot gear they hope will quell any threat to public order.

Nevertheless, a drive across Tigray revealed clear evidence of rising tensions. Virtually every opposition campaign poster had been torn or defaced, even in areas considered opposition strongholds.

A few scattered incidents of violence have been reported, one of them fatal. But police say they are prepared to prevent the kinds of protests the ended in violence following the last national election in 2005.

Tigray is again a battleground, but as in the past, the TPLF is expected to emerge victorious. Given its near total control of the government, experts say the region's ruling party could sweep the boards.

The opposition is hoping it can awaken a sleeping giant of anti-government sentiment. But even its staunchest supporters understand this struggle is about building for the future. They may dream, but the most they can realistically hope for is to live to fight another day.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope Condemns IS 'Persecution' of Minorities

Pope delivers annual 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) blessing, appeals for end to conflicts in Africa, dialogue in Middle East, condemns Taliban attack in Pakistan More

China Reduces Number of Crimes Punishable by Death

Earlier this year China announced plans to remove nine crimes from the list of capital offenses, including counterfeiting, fraudulent fund-raising and forcing others into prostitution More

Analysis: For N. Koreans, Parody Has Grave Tone

Most North Koreans who might see 'The Interview' would be horribly offended, outraged, and confused 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.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid