Ethiopia ready for national election

web_photo_Adis Ababa_210413

Ethiopia held the second High Level Forum on African Security that took place over the weekend.

Ethiopia held the second High Level Forum on African Security that took place over the weekend.

web_photo_Adis Ababa_210413

Ethiopia held the second High Level Forum on African Security that took place over the weekend.

Ethiopia held the second High Level Forum on African Security that took place over the weekend.

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian parties wrapped their campaigns ahead of Sunday&39;s national elections that are expected to keep in power Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who promised fair elections but warned the opposition against inciting violence.

More than 36 million people have registered to vote in the country&39;s first legislative elections since Hailemariam took office following the death of long-serving leader Meles Zenawi in 2012.

Diplomats and analysts say the ruling party is set for another landslide victory.

On the streets of Addis Ababa, newly constructed buildings are lining the skyline and roads have been newly constructed.

Hundreds of people are looking forward to changes that would come with the new government especially on issues like democracy and human rights.

Addis Ababa resident and voter Belay Abraha, said his only hope will be to see the country moving forward through good governance and rule of law.

"Whoever wins the elections should give the citizens good governance, democracy and justice in a better way and teach the people about democracy. When it comes to the issue of land, the next government should focus on how the low and middle income society can obtain land, free of lease and build his house on it according to his capability," he said.

Opposition leaders say the government has stifled dissent, infiltrated rival parties and arrested their members. Rights groups say the government has also put in place laws to curb free speech, something officials deny.

"We believe that there is law, order in the country but there is none. There is none. And we are really to say that we are in a difficult situation. To overcome this election properly it may require our members&39; life and will be very, very difficult," opposition MEDREK general secretary Mulatu Gemechu said.

About 30,000 government supporters waved party flags and sang patriotic songs at the final pre-election rally by the ruling Ethiopian People&39;s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, which has been in power since 1991.

Ethiopia&39;s young members of the ruling party EPRDF put on dance shows while another group dressed in army fatigues and brandished decommissioned AK-47 rifles in mock military battles, which was in reference to the ruling party&39;s rebel past.

The pomp and ceremony were in stark contrast to opposition gatherings, which have been poorly attended in the run-up to the vote and rarely numbered more than a few hundred people.

"The opposition parties in Ethiopia, even membership, there are very few memberships. They have no clear policies and strategies. So, most of the time, even to get candidates, that&39;s challenge for them. And also to be observer. The problem is themselves, it&39;s not the EPRDF. But they have... Most of them didn&39;t get, I mean, their members or their supporters are not willing to do that [to observe the elections on the voting day]. So it is not EPRDF, it is their own mistake," EPRDF head of public relations Desta Beyene said.

Leaders from the biggest opposition coalition Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia or MEDREK, claim they are having a difficult time campaigning and say party members have been detained by police.

They accuse the government of unfairly allocating financial resources to the ruling party and depriving opposition parties of television air time.

Ethiopia&39;s leading magazine editor Tsedale Lema said opposition parties have no chance in the upcoming elections as they appeared disorganised, adding that elections are just a formality.

"What I see now, from my own point of view, is there is an indifference. You walk around the city, picks randomly pick somebody and ask them what do you expect the result for this election to be. You&39;re not gonna get an answer that says, wow it is a curious case, I can&39;t wait to see. Everybody is telling you this is a foregone result. It is done! So, this kind of a public perception does not exist in a vacuum."," said Lema, editor of Ethiopia&39;s Addis Standard Magazine.

Ethiopia&39;s 547-seat parliament has only one opposition party member among its ranks and some opposition politicians have questioned the independence of the electoral board handling the elections.

Chaos erupted after the 2005 polls that saw about 200 people killed during several days of protests in the capital.

The governing party says the coalition would continue focusing on economic growth, which has averaged about 10 percent over the past decade, making Ethiopia one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Since 1991, when rebels led by Meles toppled military dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam after a 17-year guerrilla war, Ethiopia has sought to shed its image as the land of famines and political violence.