Addis Ababa: May 30, 2015 – Once again Addis Ababa has gone to the ruling coalition – the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
Better than what was achieved during the last election, the sole opposition seat was claimed by the EPRDF amassing 100 percent in the capital. And unlike the previous election the incumbent has secured not only parliamentary seats but also popular votes, reports Mikias Sebsibe.
Since the highly contested general elections in 2005, the mood of Addis Ababans during election year can be best described as indifference and filled with mistrust. Mistrust – because the election results announced by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) were contested by the opposition and their huge urban supporters; indifference because their votes did not translate into building a democratic process whereby the opposition take the seats in parliament. Instead, the opposition chose to boycott the parliamentary seats they won accusing the government of massive rigging of the election.
But the election came at a very high cost for Addis Abebans. More than anywhere else in the country, the heartbeat of the nation suffered the most due to the violent aftermath of the election ten years ago which claimed the lives of some 200 of its residents.
And as voting day for the fifth general election loomed near, an element of fear also filled the air perpetrated by talk of possible violence. It was perhaps for these reasons that it came as a surprise for some to witness large number of Addis Ababa residents rising very early in the morning for the purpose of none other than casting their ballots on Sunday, May 24. It was also necessary to note that, the electorate was not limited to one age group. Young and old from both sexes queued up even before the 6:00am opening hour of the polling stations.
Some of those early risers were awakened by a knock on their door by a squad of women – with a list of names and house numbers – who were urging the electorate to go out and vote. These were not people deployed by the NEBE, according to Worku Tesfaye, head of one polling station in Addis Ketema Sub City.
The early turnout in the capital caused a bit of congestion in many polling stations as voters stood in line, some impatiently. But that did not last for long and many polling stations were devoid of voters in the afternoon. According to figures from the NEBE, the turnout in Addis Ababa stood at 90.5 percent as more than 1.34 million people casted their ballot out of the registered 1.48 million. The large number of polling stations in the city, numbering 1,645 located not very far apart from each other, served an average of 900 registered voters per polling station.
Tariku Demissie, early 30s, was one of the electorate waiting in line at a polling station of mircha kilil (constituency) 5, Merkato area, in Addis Ketema Sub City. Tariku has voted during the previous two elections in 2005 and 2010.
“I voted for the party which has a clear vision for the future and a proven track record. I have watched the debates, so it was not difficult for me to decide who to vote for,” Tariku told The Reporter after casting his ballot on Sunday.
Results after the previous two elections in this area in particular was grim for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The electorate in this constituency voted for oppositions during the past two elections. In 2005, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) won all 23 seats in the capital. In what was a total reverse during the 2010 election, EPRDF swept all but one constituency in Addis. It was the Merkato area where the EPRDF lost to the opposition in 2010. Girma Seifu, the candidate representing the largest opposition party – Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek) – became the sole opposition member of parliament.
In this constituency, there were 12 political parties, including the ruling party, who contested for a seat in parliament. Except for Blue Party, all the major opposition parties including Medrek, CUD, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) were contesting. Blue Party, which was to be represented by its president Yilikal Getinet (Eng.), was eliminated from this constituency through the drawing of lots back in December. According to the electoral laws of the country, there cannot be more than 12 parties or candidates at one constituency.
On Sunday, Addis remained calm throughout the day with deserted roads in the inner city while bars and cafés in the residential suburbs were crowded with people. In many polling stations counting began after 6:00pm but continued on to late at night. In some polling stations, vote counting was not over until after midnight.
Counting in some polling stations were delayed, partly, because of disagreements whether a certain scribble by voters on the ballot paper resembles the “X” sign the electorates are expected to put in front of the party or candidate of their choice.
At one polling station in constituency 4, around the area locally known as Abinet in Lideta Sub City, observers representing EPRDF and Semayawi (Blue) Party constantly argued whether a certain cast should be considered as “vote” or discarded as “no vote”. Much like many polling stations in the city, there were a significant number of ballots which were discarded as “no vote”. There were empty ballots, signatures, religious messages and other signs including question marks on ballot papers which were all counted as “no vote”.
Only in few polling stations in Addis did the opposition had sitting observers as their mobile observers tried to cover as many polling stations as they could. It was largely the elected public observers and observers deployed by civic societies that monitored the election. However, there were no major irregularities reported by the opposition on voting day.
“The election was conducted in accordance with the law and in a free and fair manner,” Kissa Temesgen, an observer deployed by Medrek in constituency 7, told The Reporter.
“There are no irregularities we have observed,” Kidist Girma, Blue Party observer at constituency 17, also told The Reporter.
By Monday morning, many polling stations posted election results at their gates tallying the number of votes and giving ranks. Residents run from polling stations after polling stations to see the outcomes of the fifth general elections.
It quickly became evident that the ruling EPRDF had secured a landslide victory in Addis. But due to a controversial ban by the NEBE on any media outlets against reporting election results posted at polling stations, the ruling party’s sweeping victory was not announced until Wednesday.
EPRDF was confirmed the winner of all 23 constituencies in the capital when NEBE announced preliminary results on Wednesday. This meant the only seat the opposition won during the 2010 election from Merkato area constituency also went for the ruling party.
One of the highly anticipated constituencies in the capital due to the identity of candidates represented by their parties is constituency 17 in Bole area. EPRDF was represented by Yohannis Bekele, Industry Bureau head of Addis Ababa whilst Yonatan Tesfaye, public relations head of Blue Party, Wendwossen Teshome, public relation head of EDP, Teshale Sebro, president of Ethiopia Ra’ey Party, Abebe Kalsid of Medrek were also in contention representing the opposition.
After results from all polling stations are tallied in, the EPRDF had won 62.2 percent of the vote from 118,071 votes casted. Blue fared second winning 22 percent of the votes while Medrek secured 10.6 percent of the vote.
As results from the capital shows, despite winning over 30 percent of the popular vote the opposition will not be represented in parliament.
“We did not expect to win seats which would be enough to form government,” Wendwossen of EDP, who won 906 (0.76 percent) votes and ranked fifth, told The Reporter. “However, the result shows multiparty democracy is dead and gone.” EDP is one of the oldest opposition parties in the country which was founded in 1999.
“We advocate for a third way aimed at bridging the gap between the two extremes. And for that reason we took beatings from both the ruling party and other opposition,” he added.
The results from other constituencies also showed somewhat a uniform result with Blue Party, barely three years since formation, winning the hearts of more than 20 percent of the electorate in the capital.
“We are young, we have a lot to go through full of energy passion and positivity. The past won’t hold us back,” Yonatan of Blue Party said on his Facebook page after the results. “Repression is not the only cause that must move/inspire us but the power of vision, the dream we have,” Yonatan added.
The preliminary results was announced a day before the celebration of Ginbot 20, which marked the end of the Derg regime. And Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took the opportunity to thank the party’s supporters and members.
“The result confirms the commitment demonstrated by our members to achieve better results,” Hailemariam said before adding that the ruling party will rectify its weaknesses and work not just for those who voted for it but also who are opposed to it.
Of the 23 candidates the EPRDF fielded in Addis Ababa, seven are existing members of parliament including Aster Mamo, civil service minister, Solomon Tesfaye, state minister of Administration, Justice Policy Planning and Implementation at the office of the Prime Minister and Bisrat Gashawtena, CEO of Amhara Development Association.
Tadesse Haile, state minister of Industry, Ali Siraj, state minister of Trade, and Temesgen Tilahun, state minister of Civil Service are among the newly fielded candidates representing EPRDF.