Subject of discussions: EPRDF domination in parliament

Since the establishment of the federal system in 1995, Ethiopia has undertaken five general and regional elections. Except for the 2005 general election, many of the elections were held under a tight political space and led to an outstanding 99% and 100% victory for the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in the 2010 and 2015 general elections. The opposition did not receive a substantive number of seats in the parliament, leaving absolute domination to the ruling party.

Since late 2015, anti-government protests have been ongoing in parts of Oromia and Amhara regional states. This has led to an announcement by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn in October 2016 stating that the government would reform electoral laws. A particular focus was promised on the principle of the First Past the Post (FPTP) that, according to the government, is insufficiently unable to accommodate opposition voices.  On January 24th 2017, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Center for Federal Studies of the Addis Ababa University, jointly organized a conference to shed some light on the issue. Dr. Zemelak Ayitenew Ayele, leading researcher at the Centre for Federal Studies, pointed out that the majority of political parties, including the ruling EPRDF, support the principle of proportional representation in parliament. But in addition to some “hard factors” of the electoral law, there are various other factors that prevent opposition parties from transforming their voices into parliamentary representation. It is therefore inconclusive to entirely blame the FPTP or the electoral system for the lack of opposition representation.

In accordance with the Prime Minister’s statement, it was obvious during the lively discussions that possible reforms of the electoral law need further dialogue of all stakeholders before the next call to the voting booths. As there were also questions raised on the general institutional setting, including the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), the conference was considered as having provided a good starting point for necessary reflections.