News Release - Wednesday 23rd November 2005: Updated Tuesday 29th November 2005
Factsheet on the Parliamentary elections in Ethiopia
Facts about the Recent Ethiopian Parliamentary Elections
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 country.
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.
On 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 country.
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:
EPRDF 327 seats
CUD 109 seats
UEDF 52 seats
Other parties 46 seats
Independent 1 seat
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. Therefore, out of 547 sets, 475 members of parliament (86.8%) have now taken their seats, representing their constituencies. More CUD members are expected to follow suit soon. By 29th November 2005, 49 CUD members had taken up their seats in Parliament.
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 demands.
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.
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 protected.
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
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, 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 Union:
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 concluded that:
“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.”
31.2 The Carter Center:
The Carter 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 Ethiopia:
A press statement dated 13thSeptember endorsed by twenty-four representatives of the donor countries residing in Ethiopia stated:
“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.”
31.4 The 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.”