2015 Ethiopian general election
All 547 seats to the House of Peoples' Representatives
The result was a victory for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which won 500 of the 547 seats. Allies of the EPRDF won the remaining seats. Only 5.1% of the valid votes (less than 1.7 million) went to opposition parties.
The 547 members of the House of Peoples' Representatives (the lower chamber of parliament) were elected in single-member constituencies using the first-past-the-post system. The results of the election were announced one month after the election took place. About 93.2 percent of Ethiopia’s 36.8 million registered voters participated in the parliamentary elections, and nearly 1.4 million (3.3%) of the total votes cast for the election were deemed "invalid." This number exceeded even the number of votes which went to any individual opposition party, highlighting the dire circumstances for opposition in the election. Invalid ballots could be discarded as such for a variety of reasons according to Ethiopia's electoral laws. As outlined by Ethiopian paper The Reporter after the election: "a ballot paper is deemed invalid where the identity of the elector is disclosed, the ballot paper is not marked or difficult to determine the intention of the voter, [voted] for more candidates than the allowed. But as was witnessed during vote counting in some polling stations, discarding ballots as invalid was not always a clear cut conclusion."
The elections were delayed in the Gimbo Gawata constituency due to clashes between the EPRDF and an independent candidate, Ashebr Woldegiorgis, who filed formal complaints against the EPRDF after coming in second at 17.7% of the region's votes. Polling took place on 14 June.
The elections were managed by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, also known as the NEBE, which maintains about 43,500 polling stations throughout its 547 constituencies. According to its official English website, "The Board is accountable to the House of Peoples' Representatives and is an independent and autonomous organ for conducting elections having its own legal personality." It consists of nine members nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the HPR, effectively allowing the ruling party to heavily control elections from a regulatory side, especially considering the 100% win of 2015 and the similar, though not 100% margins of earlier elections.
Still, it should be noted the Board claims on its website:
"The composition of the Board Members has taken into consideration the national diversity, gender representation and includes legal professionals. Board Members must:
- Be loyal to the Constitution
- Be non-partisan
- Be professionally competent
- Be known for their good conduct
And its objectives are listed as:
- Ensure the establishment of a Government elected through free, fair, and impartial elections held in accordance with the Constitution.
- Ensure the existence of an electoral system that enables political parties and private candidates, which respect the constitution and institutions established by it, compete equally and impartially.
- Enable citizens to exercise their constitutional democratic right to elect and be elected."
A total of 1,828 candidates contested the 547 seats, of which nine were independents and the remainder represented 44 parties. Of the 1,828 candidates, 1,527 were men and 801 women.
To help voters make informed decisions for the May Federal and National Elections, the Joint Council of Political Parties selected nine subjects as the agendas for televised debates between the political parties in the planned televised debating sessions. The subjects identified for debate in the televised election programs cover a variety of subjects: the Multi-Party System and Building Democracy; Federalism; Agricultural and Rural Policy; Urban Development and Industrial Policy; Good Governance and the Rule of Law; National Security; Foreign Policy; Infrastructure; Education and Health. Despite these structures being in place, there were obstacles particularly from the ruling government that did not allow for an easy campaign period. For example, "on April 1, 2015, Yilkal Getnet (Eng.), president of the Blue Party (known in Amharic as Semayawi Party) had planned to travel to the United States for campaigning with the Ethiopian Diaspora there, according to Yonatan Tesfaye, public relations head of the party. However, his plan was aborted, because his passport was snatched by the authorities."
The censorship in Ethiopia makes it difficult for members of opposition parties to effectively campaign to the general Ethiopian populous, thus limiting knowledge of political candidates. Leaders of opposition parties have been arrested, including during the month after this election.
Number of candidates within each partyEdit
|Political Parties Running for Election||Regional Assmebly Candidates (Men)||Regional Assembly Candidates (Women)||House of Peoples' Representatives Candidates (Men)||House of Peoples' Representatives Candidates (Women)|
|Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front||714||636||314||187|
|Ethiopia Federal Democratic Unity Forum||607||32||261||9|
|Ethiopian Democratic Party||154||18||159||6|
|Ethiopian Somali People's Democratic Party||196||77||10||14|
|Coalition for Unity and Democratic Party||103||16||93||15|
|All Ethiopian Democratic organization||98||11||76||2|
|Unity For Democracy and Justice Party||82||13||89||3|
|Gambela People's Unity Democratic Movement||115||41||3||0|
|All Oromo People Democratic Party||65||5||40||9|
|New Generation Party||49||9||53||6|
|Benishangul Gumuz People's Democratic Party||80||19||5||4|
|Ethiopian Raie Party||58||4||40||2|
|Afar National Democratic Party||77||16||6||2|
|Gumz People's Democratic Movement||78||7||8||0|
|Ethiopian Democratic Unity Movement||33||5||33||6|
|Ethiopia Democratic Union||39||4||22||2|
|Ethiopian Justice and Democratic Forces Front||31||5||23||3|
|Sidama Hadicho People Democratic Organization||37||6||14||1|
|Oromo National Congress||31||0||20||3|
|Geda System Advancement Party||28||5||18||0|
|All Ethiopian National Movement||16||6||12||16|
|Agew Democratic Party||26||2||15||1|
|Ethiopian Peace and Democratic Party||13||7||10||6|
|Gedeo People Democratic Organization||21||0||7||0|
|Harari National League||10||8||1||0|
|Oromo Liberation Unity Front||9||0||5||0|
|Bench People Democratic Organization||9||0||3||0|
|Wolayta People Democratic Front||5||3||4||0|
|Welene People Democratic Party||3||0||7||0|
|Dilwabi Peoples' Democratic Movement||6||1||2||0|
|Donga People Democratic Organization||6||0||2||0|
|Denta Dubamo Kichinchila People's Democratic Organization||3||2||2||0|
|Kembata People's Congress||4||1||2||0|
|All Amhara People's Organization||3||0||4||0|
|Ethiopian's Unity Democratic Organization||0||0||6||0|
|Somali Democratic Alliance Forces||5||0||-||-|
|Dube and Degeni Nationality Democratic Party||2||1||2||0|
|Argoba People Democratic Organization||3||0||1||0|
|Argoba Nationality Democratic Movement||3||0||1||0|
|Tigri Worgi Nationality Democratic Organization||-||-||3||0|
|Oromo Liberation Unity Front||-||-||3||0|
|Western Somali Democratic Party||2||0||-||-|
|All Ethiopian Democratic Party||-||-||2||0|
|Sodo Gordona Peoples' Democratic Organization||-||-||1||0|
|Ethiopian National Unity Party||-||-||1||0|
|Source: National Electoral Board|
House of Peoples' RepresentativesEdit
The election found women gaining a more favorable percentage of seats, with men holding about 61% of the seats, and women holding about 39%.
|Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front||500||+1|
|Somali People's Democratic Party||24||0|
|Benishangul Gumuz People's Democratic Party||9||0|
|Afar National Democratic Party||8||0|
|Gambela People's Democratic Movement||3||0|
|Argoba People Democratic Organization||1||0|
|Hareri National League||1||0|
|Agew Democratic Party||0|
|All Ethiopian Democratic Organization||0|
|All Ethiopian Democratic Party||0|
|All Ethiopian National Movement||0|
|All Oromo People Democratic Party||0|
|All-Amhara People's Organization||0|
|Argoba Nationality Democratic Movement||0|
|Bench People Democratic Organization||0|
|Coalition for Unity and Democracy||0|
|Denta Dubamo Kichinchila People's Democratic Organization||0|
|Dilwabi Peoples' Democratic Movement||0|
|Donga People Democratic Organization||0|
|Dube and Degeni Nationality Democratic Party||0|
|Ethiopia Democratic Union||0|
|Ethiopia Federal Democratic Unity Forum||0||–1|
|Ethiopian Democratic Party||0|
|Ethiopian Democratic Unity Movement||0|
|Ethiopian Justice and Democratic Forces Front||0|
|Ethiopian National Unity Party||0|
|Ethiopian Peace and Democratic Party||0|
|Ethiopian Raie Party||0|
|Ethiopian's Unity Democratic Organization||0|
|Geda System Advancement Party||0|
|Gedeo People Democratic Organization||0|
|Gumz People's Democratic Movement||0|
|Kembata People's Congress||0|
|New Generation Party||0|
|Oromo Liberation Unity Front||0|
|Oromo People's Congress||0|
|Sidama Hadicho People Democratic Organization||0|
|Sodo Gordona Peoples' Democratic Organization||0|
|Tigri Worgi Nationality Democratic Organization||0|
|Unity for Democracy and Justice||0|
|Welene People Democratic Party||0|
|Wolayta People Democratic Front||0|
|Source: National Electoral Board|
|Afar||Afar National Democratic Party||817,107||93|
|Argoba Nationality Democratic Organization||8,253||3|
|Amhara||Amhara National Democratic Movement||7,314,564||294|
|Benishangul-Gumuz||Benishangul Gumuz People's Democratic Party||222,790||99|
|Gambela||Gambela People's Democratic Movement||195,335||155|
|Harari||Hareri National League||84,097||18|
|Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization||19,791||18|
|Oromia||Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization||10,877,190||537|
|SNNP||Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement||5,836,849||345|
|Somali||Somali People's Democratic Party||2,621,088||273|
|Tigray||Tigrayan People's Liberation Front||2,374,574||152|
|Source: National Electoral Board|
This was the first general election in Ethiopia since 2012, and it did allow for political participation on behalf of the citizens of Ethiopia, but it was more about the act of participation rather than an actually competitive election. The EPRDF had been working on improving its image through training for civil servants, university lecturers, and students, and expanded its membership to 7 million through the “one to five” network. As described previously, there were opposition parties running, but their campaign abilities were incredibly limited by government censorship. Protests and demonstrations are another form of political participation utilized by unhappy citizens, but they are often stopped by security forces.
Regarding the fairness of the election, there has been much debate and conflict, especially within the bounds of Ethiopia's political climate.
Merga Bekana, the electoral board chairman at the time, declared that "The election was coordinated in a free, fair, peaceful, credible and democratic manner". The opposition, however, contested the results and called the election an "undemocratic disgrace." The opposition has had longstanding suspicion of Ethiopia's transformation into a one party state, and the 2015 election was enough for them to feel that there is proof behind this claim.
The views of the opposition, to some degree, line up with those of the State Department of the United States. They said that they "[remain] deeply concerned by continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views." Former President Barack Obama contradicted the views of the State Department in a public appearance that was made in Ethiopia in front of the prime minister. He stated that he felt the government was democratically elected. He has since faced much criticism for this, especially among opposition groups and journalists within Ethiopia.
Monitoring of polls and international involvementEdit
Although observers were present from the African Union to monitor the election, there were no international observers from Western countries. The European Union declined to participate in the proceedings on the grounds that Ethiopia had ignored the recommendations it provided after the previous round of elections that were also won by a questionable landslide. In reference to this action by the EU, in an interview with Voice of America, Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein stated: "Whatever prescription they made, it had nothing to do with the election. It has to do with the entire democratic system, and legal system and policy issues. So we didn’t subscribe to that subscription because it has nothing to do with elections." 
At the invitation of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the African Union Commission Chairperson, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma deployed an African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to the 24 May 2015 Parliamentary elections in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Long-Term Observers (LTOs) deployed pre-election observed that the political climate was calm and stable during this period. However, there were some concerns about the Media law, the Anti-terrorism law, and the Civil Society Law which arguably limited the ability of citizens to participate in political activities The African Union observers also noted that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) was adequality resourced to manage the elections. Although NEBE together with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority allocated 600 hours of free electronic media airtime and 700 columns in the state-owned print media for all political parties contesting, the African Union observers report that some political parties alleged that the media were unable to air their campaign messages in the original forms.
On election day, the 29 African Union observer teams visited 365 polling stations 64.5% of which were located in rural areas and 35.5% in urban areas. The teams noted that the Election Day proceeded in a peaceful and calm atmosphere without major incidences. However, the observers noted that was an imbalance in terms of party representation with dominant parties better represented. The AUEOM also noted discrepancies in the counting procedures, particularly the ballot reconciliation processes in some of the polling stations visited. 'For instance, at a polling station located at Site 10 in Jijiga Woreda in Somali region, it was noted that the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters at the stations. Party agents were present but did not raise any objections about the discrepancies.' The AUEOM concludes that the Parliamentary Elections were calm, peaceful, and credible as it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls
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