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Abiy election polls when Ethiopians vote in first ‘free’ election

The last time Berhanu Nega competed in 2005, he did so well that he ended up in prison. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which was in power at the time, was hit by protesters, accusing them of plotting to overthrow Berhanu, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa, in prison.

Now 62 years old, Berhanu is the leader of the opposition opposition parliamentary election on Monday, who is said to be Ethiopia’s first “free and fair”.

The vote will be for Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed in the run-up to the election since he took office behind the 2018 protests and promises to change.

Although some opposition politicians say the move is flawed, Abiy hopes it will save a history that has been damaged recently. civil war, causing famine and violence in the northern region of Tigray.

“What is at stake is the existence of this country,” said Berhanu, a professor of economics who once chose a criminal and was sentenced to death. absent during the years he was in captivity, referring to the kind of violence that has taken place not only in Tigray but throughout the world since Abiy first took office.

Violence, among several ethnic groups in Ethiopia, has displaced 2m, excluding Tigray, and threatens to break the former 114m population, which is often compared to the former Yugoslavia.

Tigray line evacuated to refugee camp in Mekele, northern Ethiopia © Ben Curtis / AP

Berhanu, who shares with Abiy the idea of ​​Ethiopia as a united state, argues that elections could restore order, which could lead to elections themselves. “I don’t care who wins and more about the process,” he said. “If we can make reliable decisions, I think this could be a new beginning for this country.”

Opposing views were not shared with other opposition parties, which felt that the investigation was too flawed and that the newly formed Abiy party Prosperity would not lose.

Most popular who may be opponents He is in jail and many parties are holding protests that will not take place in other parts of the country, including Tigray, because they appear to be unstable. Of the 547 parliamentary seats, at least 102, mostly from three constituencies – Tigray, Somalia and Harari – will not contest, according to Chatham House, the think tank.

“This will be the same election as in the days of Joseph Stalin, when he told the Russian people to ‘vote, let’s read’,” said Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, which is boycotting the election. As a result, Abiy’s party is expected to sweep Oromia, the largest city with a population of 35m, although Prime Minister Oromo is seen by many there as if he has sold out local interests and a vision of a stable country.

Opposition parties, including the Citizen for Social Justice in Berhanu, say the posters have been torn down and their supporters disillusioned, though Berhanu said he did not expect the fraud to take place, such as voting. In contrast to the last general election in 2015, when the EPRDF “won” 100% of the seats in the by-elections, it predicted that the opposition parties would win the by-elections.

Berhanu Nega greets his followers

Berhanu Nega: ‘The threat to the very existence of this world’ © © Eduardo Soteras / AFP via Getty Pictures

However, the election is unconstitutional, “full of restrictions, threats, arrests, violence of any kind”, according to Belete Molla, chairman of the National Movement of Amhara, a racist group. “The Prosperity Party has been spending a lot of public money on party campaigns, forcing people to use government programs,” Belete said, referring to the removal of subsidized items for those who were not registered to vote.

About 37m people registered after a slow start that required a second suspension after the 2020 election campaign for Covid-19.

Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said that, despite the difficulties, elections were more open than in 27 years of EPRDF rule. “It’s a reliable way of electing the people that is the way to a good election in the future,” he said. “But all politics makes it difficult for elections to be held.”

A few days before Monday, Abiy returned to his hometown of Jimma in Oromia for a conference held to showcase his popularity. There, it was difficult to find anyone who did not support him or who did not approve of the war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which was condemned for years of oppression when it led the EPRDF. Abiy’s supporters said they were left with no choice but to attack Tigray after TPLF’s loyal forces attacked a northern army in November.

“The problem is the TPLF government, which was very bad,” said Nuritu Siraj, a 39-year-old woman, whose eyes were frightened every time she called out “Our Abiy”. Wearing a hijab with the Prosperity party logo, he said the atrocities that took place in Tigray, where killings, rapes and robberies have become commonplace: “This is not a war, it is a peacekeeping operation.”

When thousands of followers gathered, some of them on horseback, Abiy shared his vision of solidarity, not being popular in some parts of the country where tribes such as the Somali, Afars and Oromo people coveted their rights. “Our unity does not destroy our differences, our differences do not spread our unity,” he said.

While the Prime Minister seems to be still waiting for the upcoming demonstrations. “This will be the first time that the election campaign has been free and fair,” he said.

Despite the success of the experiment, many of Ethiopia’s problems – which are the main tensions in the Tigray war – have not changed. “This is a difficult time; we are at a crossroads, ”said Merera.

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