Ethiopia votes in the largest election test to date for Abiy | World news
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – Ethiopia voted on Monday in the largest election test to date for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as war and logistics issues meant more than 100 of the 547 constituencies across the country would not vote.
The election, which was postponed compared to the previous year, is at the heart of a reform offensive by Abiy, whose rise to power in 2018 seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule and led to his Nobel Peace Prize in the following year. He has described the poll as “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections”.
Long lines of voters have been seen in some parts of the capital Addis Ababa, while security has been tightened in Africa’s second largest country. Military vehicles were parked at key locations in the capital. More than 37 million Ethiopians were expected.
“I hope for a peaceful Ethiopia, because that is the greatest thing we need,” said voter Atalay Anteneh.
Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party, formed in 2019 from the amalgamation of groups that formed the previous ruling coalition, is widely expected to consolidate its power. The party that receives the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives will form the next government.
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Opposition groups have accused the ruling Ethiopian party of harassment, manipulation and threats of violence, reflecting the abuse of the past. Some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election. Others say they were prevented from campaigning in several parts of the country.
Abiy is facing increasing international criticism of the war in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, partly due to the fact that the now-fugitive leaders of Tigray spoke out against Ethiopia’s postponement of the elections last year, citing COVID-19. No date has been set for the vote in the 38 constituencies of Tigray.
Tigray’s former leaders fighting Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea have reported fierce new fighting in the past few days. Ethiopia’s defense forces have described the fighting as difficult because of the impassable terrain. Thousands of civilians have been killed and a famine has begun in what observers call a protracted guerrilla war.
In the regions of Amhara, Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz, hundreds of people have been killed in recent months as a result of outbreaks of ethnic violence.
International concerns about the election are growing. The US has said it is “deeply concerned about the environment in which these upcoming elections are to be held,” and the European Union said it will not watch the vote after its requests to import communications equipment are denied.
In response, Ethiopia said that external observers are “neither essential nor necessary to confirm the credibility of an election”, although it has since welcomed observers sent by the African Union.
The Secretary General of the United Nations has taken note of the “challenging” environment and has warned against acts of violence.
“It is our duty to remain united and not that of the government,” said a resident of the capital, Eskedar Teklegiorges, over the weekend when hundreds of police officers marched in a show of force before the vote.
Abiy’s Prosperity Party had 2,432 candidates in the election. The next largest party, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, put up 1,385 candidates. A total of 47 parties competed.
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