Jul 02 2015

British Amb.: Ethiopian election results bad for democracy

Britain’s Ambassador said: “It is starting to sound as if the ruling party and its allies will have a 100 percent of the seats in parliament. And I think that is not good for democracy; that is what you get in places like North Korea. But actually in Ethiopia you need some diversity of opinion in parliament.”

The Ambassador made the remark during an interview with the English-weekly The Reporter. The interview, published in the weekend, was conducted days before the officially announcement of final election results last Friday. Nonetheless, a total win by the ruling party EPRDF and its allies was widely expected since the last week of May.Photo - Ambassador Greg Dorey

The Ambassador’s remark came at about the same time British Foreign Minister issued a strong statement regarding Andargachew Tsige‘s case.

Western diplomats in Addis Ababa, unlike elsewhere,  seldom remark on domestic politics, especially since the 2005 post-election crisis that impacted relations with a couple of diplomatic missions.

Here is the Ambassador’s comment:

Question: What is your take on the recent election in which the ruling party won all the 547 seats in parliament? Would you characterize it as free, fair and credible?

Ambassador Greg Dorey:

I think it is a pity that we couldn’t observe that election. First of all, The European Union (EU), which observed election[s] in Ethiopia in 2005 and 2010, was not invited this time; we needed an invitation. If you are going to have an observation mission, it needs cooperation from the government. It was clear that the government did not want the EU observation mission to come on this occasion.

Very unusually, diplomats were [are] not allowed to observe election [s here]. Though, peculiarly, it seems ok for the African Union (AU) mission to have diplomats as part of the election observation mission. I have observed elections in many other places such as Pakistan even in the remote tribal areas but not permitted here.

So, we don’t have first-hand information on what went on. I think we will wait until we hear the official announcement of results and I expect we will then comment [the interview was conducted last week]. But we have some concerns especially regarding the relative lack of political space in the run-up to the election.

It is starting to sound as if the ruling party and its allies will have a 100 percent of the seats in parliament. And I think that is not good for democracy; that is what you get in places like North Korea. But actually in Ethiopia you need some diversity of opinion in parliament.

But, that is not to say that the current government is doing a bad job when it comes to development; it is doing a good job overall. However, in a democracy, it is health[y] to have somebody who is articulating alternative views. And in the previous parliament one out of 547 MPs seemed a bit inadequate.

I think it would be a sign of Ethiopia growing and developing and being part of the global democratic family, if in the future we see rather more substantial opposition within parliament, I think that will be good for the country.

I am not in a position to comment on allegations of electoral abuses, as I said we did not observe. However, I think if the government has got 100 percent of the seats in parliament, it will be very important to ensure that in the coming years, those people who voted for other parties, and I do think a lot of people voted for other parties, feel that they have a say in the running of the country; and that their views are represented at the highest level. That would be important for the stability and sustainability of the future.

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