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« Taiwan Chooses Independence. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 47 -- Europe's Economy. »

Ethiopian Elections: Maturation Of An Emerging Democracy.

Ethiopia has become one of America's closest allies in Africa in the War on Terror. Consequently, according to the rules of the Bush Doctrine, it has faced increasing pressures to democratize. Today, Ethiopians go to the polls, and the expectation of turnout is high (25 million people are registered to vote).


The Washington Post reports that unlike in recent elections in Zimbabwe, there's reason to be optimistic about today's election in Ethiopia:

For the first time, international observers will monitor the balloting. Many Ethiopians consider the election to be a test of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's pledge to introduce greater democracy in the country of nearly 70 million. His sometimes authoritarian government has ruled the country since 1991. So far, the campaign has won qualified international approval. Opposition parties have had unprecedented access to the news media and have staged massive rallies in the capital, Addis Ababa.


Meles views the election as "the maturation of the emerging democracy" in Ethiopia.

Indeed, one of the primary opposition parties, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, has had far greater rights to organize and demonstrate than other groups in the past, but it still believes the election situation could be better:

"It is far away from the free and fair elections the government promised," said Berhanu Nega, vice chairman of the main opposition group, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy. Nega said he believed the opposition had a real chance of winning control of Parliament, and the government was responding by reneging on its promise of a fair election.

Nega's comments might be an example of typical politics, or he might have a legitimate beef. International observers, however, including those from the United States, seem satisfied with the political environment. It might not be up to Washington State or Milwaukee, Wisconsin standards (that is sarcasm, for the ascerbically-challenged), but it looks like Ethiopia may pull off truly free and fair elections.

Scenes such as these might have been unthinkable in previous elections:


Unfortunately, given his record of endorsing seemingly unfair and unfree elections, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is involved in the election monitoring:

Mr. Carter arrived in Ethiopia Thursday to lead a 50-member delegation from the Atlanta-based Carter Center to observe Sunday's national and regional elections.


One Ethiopian human rights group is fuming mad over the international community's endorsement of today's election:

Ethiopian Human Rights Council chairman, Andargatchew Tesfaye, angrily challenged the former president's views.

"He has been here how many hours? It is not just Mr. Carter, but others also. [They] arrive in the morning. They see officials in the afternoon and they claim that everything is okay. But it has not been okay. I wish they would leave it to us or go around and investigate the situation thoroughly," he said.

Mr. Andargatchew's group charges that the National Election Board, which is supposed to be independent and non-partisan, is blatantly pro-government and has acted only in the interest of securing a government victory at the polls.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also believes the election may be marred by the quashing of political dissent.

No election is perfect, but Ethiopia's election at least has a chance of producing a representative result. It is also a leap forward in Ethiopian political history, and, unlike in recent elections in some countries, it marks what seems like a good-faith effort to inject life into the arduous process of democratization in a country still discovering what democracy means.


The BBC has a nice backgrounder on the Ethiopian vote, including this regional map:


We'll be watching to see how Ethiopia's ruling party responds to this challenge/opportunity.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2005 05:13 AM


Where does WILLisms.com come up with such great pictures?...You could have a hall of fame of politicians pictures. I just love this blog! Great picture of Jimmy Carter!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 15, 2005 06:12 PM

Caption for the Jimmy picture:
"What, you mean Kim Jong Il lied to me?"

Posted by: rbj at May 19, 2005 07:27 AM

Which less than free election did he say was OK? I haven't heard of any. The only thing I heard was a subsequently proven bogus claim about Venezeula.

Posted by: Rob W at May 19, 2005 08:13 AM

Any post with a jab at Jimmah is a great post in my book. He looks like he might have lost some peanuts in his pants in that shot.

Nice roundup on the election!

Posted by: Jim Hoft at May 19, 2005 12:47 PM