A senior Ethiopian government official said his country is ready to hold the May 23 parliamentary elections in a free, fair and credible manner.
Communications Minister Bereket Simon said the government has broadened the democratic space to avoid a repeat of the bloody 2005 post-election violence.
“First, we have drafted a code of conduct which was discussed by a majority of the political parties. Secondly, we have formed a joint party forum; the public broadcasting service has allocated about 570 hours of radio and television time to the parties; for the first time in our history the federal government has given political parties financial subsidies. So in our opinion, everything is in place for the upcoming elections,” he said.
Bereket said voter registration has also gone well.
He said assertions by the opposition that the government was already violating the electoral code of conduct were a smear campaign by those who did not sign the code.
“Base on the facts on the ground, all pending cases that were submitted to the joint party forum have been investigated and 95 percent of the cases have been found to be untrue. Secondly, I hear that such concerns are raised by the parties who haven’t signed the code of conduct. This is a party which declined to sign the code of conduct and yet has the audacity to accuse the ruling party of violating the code of conduct,” he said.
He said allegations of politically motivated killings in Tigray and Oromia had been investigated by the Ethiopian national Human Rights Commission and found not to be true.
Bereket said demands that the allegations should have been independently investigated are unnecessary.
“What is independent apart from the National Human Rights Commission? This is an independent commission accountable to the parliament. And the unfortunate thing was it invited the political parties who registered their complaints to be part of the investigation and they declined. They are accusing the ruling party and yet they failed to appear at every investigation. So this is a politically motivated campaign to show that the electoral process is not credible,” Bereket said.
He defended the continued imprisonment of opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and brushed off criticism that the May 23rd elections would not be credible without her participation.
“This is a system where everybody is equal before the eyes of the law. So if she has violated the rule of the law, she has to bear the consequences. That’s what we did and there is no backtracking from it,” Bereket said.
Bereket denied that democracy in Ethiopia has digressed since the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991.
Instead he said democracy has been maturing over the years under EPRDF rule.
“As I told you, democracy is coming of age in Ethiopia, and we see the maturing of democracy every passing year. We have expanded the space. In any case, that (allegation that democracy has digressed) is a fantasy of the opposition who want us to fail. But democracy is firmly rooted in Ethiopia and there is no backtracking from it,” Bereket said.