Abiy wins big in Ethiopia election

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Ethiopia’s ruling party has won a landslide in a parliamentary poll, ensuring a new five-year term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed despite the war in the northern region of Tigray.

Abiy hailed the outcome of what he described as a “historic” election — the first time he faced voters since being appointed prime minister in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests.

The winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize had hoped to frame victory at the ballot box as a mandate for political and economic reforms and military operations.

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But the poll was held in the midst of the gruelling conflict in Tigray region that has dented Abiy’s global reputation and raised fears of widespread famine.

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His Prosperity Party won more than 400 seats out of a total of 436 where elections were held, according to results issued by the National Election Board of Ethiopia.

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In a statement posted on Twitter, Abiy described it as a historically inclusive election, adding: “Our party is also happy that it has been chosen by the will of the people to administer the country.”

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The vote was meant to affirm a promised democratic revival in Africa’s second-most populous nation, with Abiy vowing a clean break with repression that tarnished past electoral cycles.

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The ruling coalition that preceded him claimed staggering majorities in 2015 and 2010 polls that observers said fell far short of international standards for fairness.

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A more open contest in 2005 saw big opposition gains but led to a lethal crackdown on protests over contested results.

This time, the polls were delayed twice — once for the coronavirus pandemic, and again to allow officials longer to prepare.

But even with the extra time voting did not go ahead in around one-fifth of the country’s 547 constituencies. A second batch of voting is due to take place on September 6 in many of those left out because of ethnic violence or logistical problems.

But there is no election date set for Tigray, where fighting marked by myriad atrocities raged for eight months before federal troops withdrew at the end of June in the face of rebel advances and Abiy’s government declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The announcement of final results was also later than expected because of delayed counts and complaints by political parties.

The situation remains precarious in Tigray, with analysts warning of potential further fighting and some world leaders denouncing a “siege” blocking desperately-needed aid for a region where hundreds of thousands face famine.

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The World Food Programme said Saturday it was sending 50 trucks of aid into Tigray.   It was not clear if it had arrived.

Campaigning was muted even in some areas where voting did take place, with opposition parties complaining of a tilted playing field.

In Abiy’s native Oromia region, Ethiopia’s largest, two of the most prominent opposition parties —  the Oromo Federalist Congress and the Oromo Liberation Front — pulled out entirely, saying their candidates had been arrested and offices vandalised.

The most competitive regions were Amhara, the country’s second-largest, and the capital Addis Ababa.

Election day saw “no serious or widespread human rights violations” in stations observed by the state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

 

 

 

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