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Former Envoy to Ethiopia Predicts Calm Elections

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

Ethiopia’s upcoming general elections will not be as dynamic or as controversial as the 2005 elections because the opposition does not have the same ability to embark on a rigorous campaign before the vote, says a former U.S envoy.

David Shinn, who was the U.S ambassador to Ethiopia from 1996-1999 said the contest in the Tigray region will test the popularity of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

“This election is going to be different than any in the past. It certainly is not going to be as dynamic or as controversial as the one in 2005 simply because the opposition does not have the same ability to carry out its campaign as it did in 2005. But, having said that I think it would be somewhat more interesting election than what you saw for example in 1995 or in 2000,” he said.

Both the ruling party and the opposition claimed victory in Ethiopia’s 2005 vote which was marred by violent street protests resulting in the loss of lives and properties.

Prime Minister Zenawi’s government said the 2005 post-election violence was a carefully calculated attempt to force a regime change in Ethiopia.

Opposition groups said this year’s vote will not be transparent after accusing the ruling party of undermining their campaigns through intimidation and harassment – a charge the ruling party dismisses as baseless.

Ambassador Shinn said the opposition erred by boycotting parliament following the 2005 election.

“I think that they made an enormous mistake by not taking their seats (in parliament). I grant them that it is not easy to function as part of the opposition in the current system in Ethiopia, but that is no excuse not to try. And, if your numbers are greater, that over time is going to give you more influence…to boycott is, I think, is the absolute worse decision you can make,” Shinn said.’

He further urged Ethiopians to fully participate in the general elections.

Meanwhile, analysts heavily tip the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to comfortably win the May 23 general elections.