Ethiopian Opposition Leaders Rule Out Candidacy In May Elections

Ethiopian Opposition Leaders Rule Out Candidacy In May Elections

By William Davison | From Bloomberg News

Two of Ethiopia’s most prominent opposition figures said they aren’t standing in May’s parliamentary elections after unfavorable decisions by the Horn of Africa nation’s electoral authorities.

The sole opposition lawmaker in parliament, Girma Seifu, and the head of the three-year-old Blue Party, Yilkal Getnet, said in interviews that they’re victims of biased judgments that will result in another landslide victory for the ruling coalition on May 24.

“This election is only ceremonial, it’s not really to win the democratic process and empower the people,” Yilkal said by phone Thursday from the capital, Addis Ababa. “The government totally closed everything.”

In 2010 elections, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front and allied parties won all but two seats in a 547-member lower chamber. The electoral environment was “heavily” tilted in favor of the coalition, according to the European Union.

Last month Yilkal lost out in a lottery to decide who could stand for a parliamentary seat which more than the maximum of 12 candidates wanted to compete for, he said. In January, the electoral board ruled that a faction of Girma’s Unity for Democracy and Justice party that he didn’t support legitimately represents the whole organization, he said Thursday by phone from the capital.

The electoral board hasn’t given a reason why around 200 Blue Party candidates out of 400 submitted were not registered, said Yilkal. The lottery process unfairly favors parties who stood in the last election, he said.

Candidate Registration

A court appeal over the board’s decision on UDJ won’t be concluded in time for the polls, Girma said.

“They already finished registering the candidates and we are not in that process, we’re already out of that election,” he said. “The clear consequence is that there is no real election.”

The opposition complaints will be investigated, said Wondimu Golla, the deputy head of the service and relations department at the electoral board.

“We are always doing our task based on the electoral law,” he said by phone from Adama city on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the U.K. aid agency redirected block grants to Ethiopia’s government into specific programs, partly because of concerns over political rights and the impact on electoral competition.