ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party was declared the winner of last month’s national elections on Saturday in a landslide, securing a second five-year term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopia’s National Electoral Council said the ruling party won 410 out of 436 contested seats in the federal parliament, which will see dozens more remaining vacant after a fifth of the constituencies failed to vote due troubles or logistical reasons. Ethiopia’s new government is expected to be formed in October.
The vote was a major test for Abiy, who came to power in 2018 after the former prime minister resigned amid widespread protests. Abiy oversaw dramatic political reforms that led in part to a Nobel Peace Prize the following year, but critics say he is backtracking on political and media freedoms. Abiy has also drawn massive international criticism for his handling of the conflict in the Tigray region which has claimed thousands of lives.
The June vote, which had been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and logistical concerns, was largely peaceful, but opposition parties denounced the harassment and intimidation. No vote took place in the Tigray region.
Abiy hailed the election as the nation’s first attempt at a free and fair vote, but the United States called it “significantly flawed,” citing the detention of some opposition figures and insecurity in parts of Africa’s second most populous country.
The leader of the main opposition Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party, Birhanu Nega, lost as the opposition parties won just 11 seats. The Ethiopian Citizens Social Justice Party lodged 207 complaints with the electorate about the vote.
Popular opposition parties in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest federal state, boycotted the elections. The ruling party ran alone in several dozen constituencies.
In a social media post on Saturday night, Abiy called the election historic in that it was conducted by an electoral body “free from influence.” He promised to include opposition figures who participated in the elections in his new government.
The head of the electoral council, Birtukan Mideksa, said in Saturday’s announcement that the vote took place at a time when Ethiopia was struggling, “but this voting process ensured that people will be ruled by their own. votes “.
She added: “I want to confirm that we succeeded in having a credible election.”
The turnout was just over 90% among the more than 37 million people who registered to vote.
The Prosperity Party was formed after the dismantling of the old ruling coalition in Ethiopia, which had been dominated by politicians from Tigray. The disagreements over this decision signaled the first tensions between the leaders of Abiy and Tigray which ultimately led to conflict in the region in November.
Although Abiy hinted in 2018 that Ethiopia would limit a prime minister’s tenure to two, it is unclear whether he will act accordingly.
Desalegn Chanie, a member of the Amhara National Opposition Movement which won a seat in parliament, told The Associated Press that the electoral committee had generally functioned well, but failed in its primary duty to be impartial and make fair judgments on complaints.
“Local election officials, gunmen and cadres tore off election observer badges and even beat them,” he said.