Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seeks legitimacy for his power grab with a win in a deeply flawed election.
Asked by Al Jazeera’s anchor Riz Khan back in May 2008 when Eritrea would have elections, President Isaias Afwerki quipped “what elections?” With his answer, he clearly declared before the international community his intention to rule the country for life without accountability.
Thirteen years later, Afwerki’s ally across the border in Ethiopia seems to be making a similar declaration. By pushing for an election amid deadly civil war and by crushing opposition parties ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed further undermined an already broken electoral process. Clearly, he, like Afwerki, is intent on staying in power at any cost for as long as he can.
On June 21, amid country-wide insecurity and boycott by opposition parties, the country went to the polls. A week later, the government announced a unilateral ceasefire in Tigray and pulled out its forces. On July 10, as people wondered why the Ethiopian army suffered a humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Tigrayan Defence Forces, Abiy declared election victory.
The prime minister is clearly trying to lay the groundwork for personalised power similar to the model Afwerki has built. He is not only weakening the electoral institution but also actively dismantling the current multinational federalism set in the country’s constitution.
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