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Who Will Win the Next Ethiopian Elections?

Ethiopia seems to be heading to hold the upcoming general elections in May 2020 on schedule. After various ethnic, regional and religious conflicts, the country went through in the last couple of years, many people had serious doubts about whether the country can and will hold safe and fair elections. Some still do. But it now looks more and more likely that there will be elections in May 2020, absent some new and dramatic developments in the next four months.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly promised to the Ethiopian people and foreign observers that he will hold free and fair elections as planned. It is unlikely that he will renege on that promise and lose his legitimacy and credibility as well as face the potential for violence and instability that may come with it.

Ethiopia is now full of many parties, large and small. Counting the smaller ones, one can easily reach close to 100 inside the country. However, many of them will not qualify for the next national elections. The parties that do will contest the hundreds of national and/or regional seats that are open for grabs.

So, who are the main forces contesting the next elections?

Ethiopia is heading for one of the most contested elections in its history. The outcome of this contest will determine many things, including perhaps the unity and stability of the country for some time to come. These upcoming elections will also tell whether Ethiopia is finally on the doorsteps of democracy where different parties compete and governments change relatively peacefully.

Broadly speaking, the next election is likely to be a contest between national forces and an assortment of regional forces under the banner of ‘federalism.’ The name ‘federalism’ should be understood here to mean ‘greater autonomy’ by some and just a rallying cry by others. None of the main parties competing in the upcoming elections want to dismantle the current federal structure. The question is just between some reform and no reform at all.

The national forces include the newly-formed Prosperity Party (successor to now-defunct EPRDF, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (ECSJ), and other smaller parties. These national parties are set to campaign under the banner ‘one Ethiopian, one vote,’ regardless of ethnicity, region or religion.

The Prosperity Party is a merger of eight regional parties, representing eight regions: Oromia, Amhara, Southern Ethiopia (SNNPR), Somali, Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, and Harari. This party should be by far the most dominant party in Ethiopia, given that it represents almost all regions of Ethiopia (except Tigray, so far). And the parties forming it are well-established and experienced within their respective regions. And the party currently holds power in Ethiopia. Read more...


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