May 2005 Ethiopian
Parliamentary Elections - Factsheet
Ethiopia adopted its first democratic
constitution in 1995. The constitution established a bi-cameral parliament:
the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of Federation.
Members of the House of Peoples’
Representatives are elected by the people for a term of five years by
direct, free and fair elections held by secret ballot. The House has 547
seats. The House of Federation is composed of representatives of
nationalities (i.e. ethnic groups) and each of them are represented by at
least one member who is elected by State Council. Each nationality is also
represented by one additional member for each one million of its population.
The first democratic election took place in
1995 and the second in 2000. The third and the most competitive multi-party
election took place on 15th May 2005,
both for the Federal Parliament as well as for the nine state councils.
The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE)
established by the Parliament, is entrusted to conduct elections throughout
The Government and the ruling party had
created a conducive atmosphere for all political parties to participate.
Election laws were revised and a code of conduct for ruling party members
issued. International and local election observers were invited. Opposition
parties were able to campaign freely throughout the country. The public
media was made available and the opposition were allotted 56% of the
air-time allocated for campaigning.
More than thirty political parties
participated. The major ones are the following:
The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF) is composed of four parties,
The Coalition for Unity and
Democracy (CUD) is composed of four parties,
The United Ethiopian Democratic
Forces (UEDF) is composed of more than seventeen parties.
There were 32,000 polling stations
throughout the country. Over 26 million people registered to vote. The
turn-out on election day was 90%.
Election campaigns were conducted for more
than six months throughout the country. Hotly contested debates between the
opposition and ruling party candidates were conducted. Town hall meetings
and huge rallies were organized.
Sunday 15th May 2005
voting took place throughout the country, with the exception of the Somali
region where elections took place on 15th August. Both elections
took place peacefully and the Ethiopian people exercised their right to
elect representatives of their choice in this historic election in their
The opposition parties made complaints
throughout the election process. After and during the polling process they
complained that there was major fraud. They alleged that fraud and
irregularities had happened in 299 constituencies and they made it clear
that they would not accept the result.
NEBE, in cooperation with the election
monitors, conducted extensive investigations into the complaints made by the
opposition. As a result of this investigation, the NEBE conducted election
re-runs in thirty-one constituencies where major problems had been found.
After thorough investigation was completed,
NEBE announced the results of the election as follows:
---------------------- 109 seats
Other parties ----------------------
According to this result, the ruling party,
the EPRDF, retained a majority of seats with 327, while the opposition block
(i.e. the CUD, UEDF, OFDM) gained more than 170 seats. In the outgoing
parliament the opposition had had only 12 seats, so in the May elections
they gained impressive results.
Ethiopia has nine federal states with nine
state councils. In the nine state councils, EPRDF and its allies won
overall, but the opposition parties also made considerable progress. For
example, in the Amhara State Council, out of 294 seats, CUD won 107 and out
of 537 seats in the Oromia State Council the opposition won 148 seats (i.e.
UEDF – 105, CUD - 33 and OFDM - 10). In a clean sweep, the CUD won all the
seats in Addis Ababa, both for the Parliament as well and for the city
council and expected to form its Government in the capital city.
Opposition parties continued to charge the
ruling party with fraud and irregularities. They called upon their
supporters to go onto the streets to change the result. In a violent protest
that was staged in Addis Ababa by the opposition parties on 8th
June 2005, twenty-six people lost their lives. The loss of lives is
unfortunate and regrettable.
After this unfortunate incident, under
pressure from the public and the international community, all parties met
for discussions held under the auspices of the NEBE. Finally, an agreement
was signed by representatives from the EPRDF, the CUD and the UEDF on 10th
June. Despite some initial set-backs caused by pre-conditions set by the
CUD, which were then retracted, agreement was reached, with all parties
re-affirming their commitment to the successful conclusion of the electoral
process and accepting the legal authority of the NEBE. In signing the
agreement, all parties also re-asserted their condemnation of all acts of
violence or incitement to violence and affirmed their resolution to resolve
all issues through legal and peaceful means only.
The 10th June agreement has been
constantly violated by the opposition who continue to incite violence to
change the result of the election. They called a general strike and a
nationwide demonstration, starting on 2nd October. Tension was
mounting in the country and the Government warned the opposition parties
that illegal and violent demonstrations cannot be tolerated.
Foreign diplomats in Ethiopia offered
mediation to bring the two parties together to resolve their disagreement
peacefully and legally if necessary. Both parties agreed upon 8 points for
dialogue and the Opposition called off the strike. Suddenly however, the
opposition parties walked out before real dialogue had begun on these 8
points, without satisfactory explanation.
The Ethiopian Parliament opened on 10th
October 2005 and all the parties, except the CUD, took up their seats.
Disagreeing with their party’s intention to boycott the parliament, 38 CUD
members out of 109 took up their seats in parliament.
More CUD members followed suit and by January 2006, 89 CUD MPs (of 109) had
taken up their seats.
The leaders of the CUD, on the other hand
again called a national strike and instigated violent demonstrations, to
force the ruling party and the duly elected Government to heed their
In a series of violent demonstrations, and
street disturbances organized by the CUD on 1st and 2nd
November, especially in Addis Ababa, regrettably 42 citizens lost their
lives. Out of these, seven were policemen who were killed by rioters with
hand-grenades, machetes, knives and other deadly weapons. Thirty-five were
civilians. 338 law enforcement agents were also injured, some very
seriously. The damage to public and private property was immense.
Twenty-four members of the leadership of the
CUD have been arrested in relation to these serious illegal acts and will be
charged by the courts. However, the Government has not banned the CUD and
the rest of its leadership and members are free citizens. The Government has
shown a keen interest to enter into dialogue with them if they renounce the
inciting of violence.
The Ethiopian Parliament, on 14th
November 2005, made a decision to set up a neutral commission that will
investigate the incidents that occurred on 8th June as well as 1st
and 2nd November 2005 in Addis Ababa that have accounted for the
loss of our citizens’ lives. It is entrusted to investigate whether there
was the use of excessive force by the security forces to contain both riots.
The names of the eleven members of the commission were announced on 29th
All friends of Ethiopia expressed their
concern and offered their support. The US Government issued a statement
condemning “the cynical, deliberate attempts to stoke violence in the
Ethiopian capital” and “deplored the use of violence, and deliberate
attempts to provoke violence, in a misguided attempt to resolve political
differences.” Resident diplomats of donor countries in Ethiopia also
appealed for calm and restraint.
The irresponsible acts by the leaders of the
CUD surely undermined Ethiopia’s efforts at democratization and its
aspiration to continue its economic development. However, the Government
renewed its commitment to continue the ongoing democratic and economic
programme. Citizens’ human and political rights will continue to be
In conclusion, Ethiopia conducted the most
free and fair elections in its entire history on 15th May 2005.
This election was monitored by international and local election monitors.
Accordingly, the following were among them:
The African Union
The Carter Centre
The European Union
The US Department of State
The Donors’ Representatives in Ethiopia
The Arab League
Monitors from India, Japan, China,
Turkey and Russia
Monitors from the Embassies in Addis
Ababa and the Pan-African Parliament
About 150,000 local election monitors,
mainly from Ethiopian religious institutions and civic society observed the
election process throughout the country as well.
All election observers, except the EU
monitors, have submitted their final reports. The EU monitors issued a
confusing “preliminary report” on the re-run election process which was
critical of some elements of the process. They said the election “did not
live up to international standards.” They also said “.. the polling
processes were generally positive. The overall assessment of the process has
been rated as good in 64% of the cases and very good in 24%.”
All election observers, except the EU
monitors, have reached the conclusion that the ruling party, the EPRDF, won
the election with a clear majority in the Parliament.
Foreign leaders and heads of the
international organizations sent messages to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,
congratulating him on his re-election, and to his party for winning the
election. They include the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anna, the current AU
Chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, the European Commission President,
Jose Manuel Barroso, EU High Representative,
Javier Solana, the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair and many more.
In their final reports, the international
observers to the election of 15th May 2005 said the following:
31.1 The African
Members of the AU Observer Team participated
fully in the observation activities and submitted a comprehensive report to the
AU Chairperson. In the report, issued on 14th September, they
“the election of 2005 and subsequent
investigation processes were conducted and organized in accordance with the
country’s electoral laws.. The AU wishes to commend the Ethiopian people’s
display of genuine commitment to democratic ideals and urges them to accept the
outcome of the results in order to build on the gains that have been recorded.”
Center expressed its pleasure at being
invited to observe the elections. In a 15th September statement it said:
“The elections process demonstrated significant
advances in Ethiopia's democratization process, including most importantly the
introduction of a more competitive electoral process, which could potentially
result in a pluralistic, multi-party political system. Ethiopians saw and
understood that public policy appropriately receives debate, that public media
cover multiple points of view, that voters' choices can result in the election
of opposition members of parliament, and that local administration may be in the
hands of a party other than the ruling party. Depending on developments in the
coming months and years, the 2005 elections could potentially represent a
historic sea change in attitudes toward political power and competition in
Ethiopia…The Carter Center's assessment of the elections suggests that the
majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation
are credible and reflect competitive conditions.”
31.3 The Donors’ Representatives in
A press statement dated 13thSeptember
endorsed by twenty-four representatives of the donor countries residing in
“The final results of Ethiopia’s historic 2005
elections issued by the NEBE.. confirm the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary
Democratic Front’s majority in Parliament. We welcome the efforts of all parties
to bring a new era of multi-party politics to Ethiopia, and look forward to a
dynamic Parliament in which the opposition has a strong voice and there is a
spirit of inclusiveness and cooperation. Most of all, we congratulate the
Ethiopian people for their demonstrated commitment to democracy. We urge all
parties to take their seats in the National Assembly with good will and mutual
respect, to express the interests and views of all Ethiopians in a vibrant
multi-party Parliament. As Ethiopia's partners, we stand ready to support the
development of Ethiopian democracy.”
US Department of State:
The US State Department issued a
press release on 16th September stating:
“These elections stand out as a
milestone in creating a new, more competitive multi-party political system in
one of Africa’s largest and most important countries. Because reported election
irregularities raised concerns about transparency, we will work with the
international community and the Ethiopian government and parties to strengthen
the electoral process. We strongly urge all the political parties to participate
in the political process and to play responsible roles as the elected
representatives of the Ethiopian people.. We call on all newly elected members
of parliament to take their seats, and to serve under Ethiopia’s constitution.”
In defiance of the decision of the majority
of the Ethiopian people at the polling stations on
15th May 2005,
and in contempt of the conclusion of the reports of the international
monitors, an extreme wing of the CUD decided to boycott the Parliament and
to bring down the elected government through unconstitutional means. This
act is illegal and if it succeeds, will result in chaos and anarchy in the
The democratisation process in
is ongoing. A priority for the government was the restoration of order. As
Prime Minister Meles said in his two-monthly report to Parliament on 13th
December 2005, foreign professionals have been appointed in three domains:
33.1 to advise on parliamentary procedure and
how it can be improved.
33.2 to advise on improvements to the National
Election Board (NEB).
33.3 to advise on the role of the media in the
democratic process and the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework and
a system for ensuring accountability.
The Prime Minister is keen to enter into
dialogue on the issue of the media with those opposition parties operating with
due respect to the legal order
Ethiopia’s priority is to continue
its fight against poverty. Friends are urged to stand by us to achieve our
goals. All Ethiopia’s friends are encouraged to resist malicious propaganda that
aims to discredit the elected government, as well as efforts to deny
the necessary resources to fight poverty, disease and illiteracy.
16th January 2006