Africa commends the Ethiopian election
The African Union Election Observer Mission produced its preliminary report on Wednesday, three days after the election on Sunday, with a statement issued at the AU Observer Mission Secretariat on May 26th. The monitoring team, headed by the President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, could hardly have been more experienced, including as it did prominent individuals and civil society members from many African countries including Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Senegal and South Africa. Its preliminary assessment was very clear: Ethiopians had been able to vote in freedom at the polls, the polls had been “excellently organized with conditions allowing voters to freely express their will”, and the Mission “recognized that 2010 Ethiopia’s legislative elections reflected the will of the people.”
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF THE AFRICAN UNION OBSERVER MISSION ON THE ETHIOPIA LEGISLATIVE ELECTONS OF 23 May 2010
In response to an invitation by the government of the People’s Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Mr. Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission to send an Observer Mission to Ethiopia for the country’s legislative elections, a Mission was constituted and deployed from the 16 – 28 May 2010.
The deployment of the Mission is in keeping with the AU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, adopted by the Heads of State and Governments of member States in July 2002. The Principles, among others, affirm that democratic elections are the basis of authority of any representative government; and constitute a key element of the democratization process and, therefore are essential ingredients for the rule of law, maintenance and promotion of peace, security and stability in the continent.
The AU is committed to ensuring that the momentum of the ongoing democratization process in Ethiopia is sustained and further enhanced. As such, the overall objective of the AU Mission to the Ethiopia 2010 Legislative Elections was to uphold this mandate. The Mission is in the process of preparing a detailed independent and impartial assessment report that will cover various aspects of the electoral process in accordance with AU Guidelines and the relevant laws of the Republic of Ethiopia.
Composition of the Observer Mission
In keeping with the tradition and need to make its Observer Missions as diverse and representative as possible, the AU Mission to Ethiopia is drawn from among Pan-African Parliamentarians, National Parliaments, high-level officials of Election Management Bodies, prominent individuals, ECCOSOC and members of the Civil Society from various African countries.
The AU Observer Mission is composed of 59 Members and is led by His Excellency Sir. Ketumile Masire, the former President of Botswana, and has been on the ground from 16 – 28 May 2010. Members have been drawn from Botswana, Cameroun, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahawari Republic, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe and include parliamentarians, high-officials of national election management bodies, former ambassadors, prominent individuals, and members of civil society.
The observer mission was preceded by a pre-election assessment mission. The Pre–Elections Assessment Mission in Ethiopia was conducted by a team of 4 independent persons between the 8th to the 13th of February 2010 in Addis Ababa. The purpose of the assessment mission was to determine whether the atmosphere was conducive for the holding of elections and also make the logistic necessary arrangements for the mission. The pre-election assessment mission also met with different electoral stakeholders.
Before deployment, the observers had a two-day briefing session where they were briefed by various electoral stakeholders, namely, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), political parties, civil society organizations and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Ethiopia. The purpose of the briefing session was to learn about the country’s electoral process from different perspectives, and to identify areas or aspects of the electoral process that should be evaluated more closely in order to determine the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process. The briefing also afforded the observers an opportunity of assessing the level of access to the Media by political parties, all in an attempt to gauge the level of democratic space accorded to the key actors to express and articulate their programmes and policy proposals to the electorate.
After the briefings in Addis Ababa, the AU Observer Mission deployed its 59 members, a total of 24 teams to all the regions and Addis Ababa City and Dire Dawa administrative areas. The Mission deployed 5 teams to Addis Ababa City (Addis Ababa region), and the rest of the teams to the following regions; Awash and Asaita (Afar); Bahir Dar and Gonder (Amhara); Asosa (Benishangul-Gumuz); Dire Dawa (Dire Dawa); Gambela (Gambela); Harari (Harari); Nazreth, Ambo and Jima (Oromiya); Jijiga (Somalia); Awasa (Southern Nations, Nationalists and People’s Region; and Mekele and Aksum (Tigray). This provided the Mission with the opportunity to get a representative sample of how the elections were organized and conducted, and how the votes were counted, tabulated and declared.
Even though the official campaign period was still on by the time the AU mission arrived in the country, due to late deployment, they were unable to observe the campaigning. Nevertheless, some of the political parties that the AU Mission observers met expressed dissatisfaction with the general political environment in which the elections were being organized. They alleged that they had not been accorded equitable (media and physical) space and freedom they needed to campaign. However the AU had no way of verifying the allegations.
2. The Preparedness of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE)
The briefing by the NEBE on the 17th May indicated that the Commission had been professional in its handling of the process leading to the elections and in accordance with the law. It was also evident that the Commission had put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that electoral materials were distributed to the polling stations in time to enable the people cast their votes.
3. Polling Day Observations
All the AU Observer Mission teams deployed in various parts of the country reported that the polling stations visited opened at 6.00 a.m. as is required by the law. The electoral materials were in place and not tampered with. The polling station opening procedures were observed. In all the polling stations visited the full complement of the election staff were deployed. The election officials were adequately knowledgeable and established procedures were followed. The Mission also noted that there were 5 public observers in all the polling stations. The candidates of ruling party had on-site representatives in almost all the polling stations visited by the AU teams, while in some polling stations candidates of opposition parties had no on-site representatives. Domestic observers were also present in almost all the polling stations visited by AU teams. Apart from the AU mission, the European Union observers were also present in the various parts of the country.
Voter turn-out was remarkably high, with long queues of voters reported as early as 5.30 a.m. in some areas. In some of the polling stations where the AU teams observed there were substantial number of spoilt votes. The teams also observed that the canvass ballot boxes used were not voter-friendly; the size and the opening were too small. The ballot papers lacked adequate security features. The voters roll which is hand-written could be open to possible manipulation. The (manual) voters’ card, lacked adequate security features. The uniform application of counting procedures and the enforcement of existing laws was observed to be lacking in some polling stations. The atmosphere was peaceful throughout the country.
The code of conduct for campaigning should be strictly observed.
There should be adequate voter and civic education before Election
The ballot box should be improved upon in order to meet international standards.
The ballot papers should have security features.
The voters’ register and voters’ card should be improved to prevent possible manipulation.
There should be an enabling environment for increased civil society participation.
In conclusion, the African Union Observer Mission to the Legislative Elections in Ethiopia concludes that:
The overwhelming voter turnout indicated outstanding mobilization and sensitization by the NEBE, political organizations and other stakeholders.
Conditions existed for voters to freely express their will.
The Ethiopian Legislative Elections were organized and conducted in accordance with the constitutional and legal provisions and the rules and regulations governing the conduct of elections in the country and were largely consistent with AU guidelines and standards for the conduct of democratic elections.
It is recognized that 2010 Ethiopia’s Legislative Elections reflected the will of the people. The AU Observer Mission congratulates the people of Ethiopia for their peaceful conduct and active participation in the electoral process.
Issued at the AU Observer Mission Secretariat, Addis Ababa, 26th May 2010
The Ethiopian Election and Democratization in Ethiopia
On May 23, almost all of the 32 million registered voters in all parts of the country took part in an historic event, Ethiopia’s 4th national elections. The turn out, huge by any standard, amounted to some 90% of registered voters casting their ballots in a free, transparent and mature manner in 43,000 polling stations throughout the country. It was a clear demonstration to both Ethiopians and the outside world that the Ethiopian people were determined to own their destiny, to chart the course they want their country to follow. The election, and its peaceful and credible outcome, clearly showed both the capacity and readiness of the electorate to participate in such elections and its insistence in controlling the democratization process, choosing only those prepared to serve the interest of further deepening of democracy in Ethiopia.
It has not been easy to arrive at this stage, and there have been many obstacles. There has been baggage from the sad events in the aftermath of the 2005 election; everyone made every effort to ensure there should be no repetition of those dark days. It was because of this that the incumbent party and the moderate elements of the opposition decided to join in an election code of conduct, through which the politics of hate and violence could be removed from the political playing field and avoided. The people in general clearly indicated their desire to rid Ethiopia once and for all from the scourge of such politicking. The ground was laid to hold an election without the old baggage so long associated with Ethiopian politics. That, in itself, was an impressive and remarkable achievement. Equally, media air-time allocation and the balanced approach maintained by the country’s print media shows just how much progress the media has made, playing its own critical role in educating the public about the policy alternatives of contending parties and creating awareness among the electorate.
It was against this background that the voting took place last weekend. The preliminary results were made public by the National Electoral Board the next evening, clearly indicating the preference of the Ethiopian people. The NEB demonstrated a remarkable achievement in organizing and monitoring the election, showing an ever-growing capacity to deal with the sort of intractable challenges that are inevitable in a country as huge as Ethiopia. Its work is highly commendable but it also reflects the distance covered in strengthening democratic institutions like the NEB.
The importance of the developments was underlined by Prime Minister Meles when he delivered a speech to an immense crowd that gathered in Mescal Square on Tuesday, fully reflecting the mood that the election had demonstrated, the undeniable achievements registered by the Government and the future hopes for the flourishing of democracy in Ethiopia. In his speech, he also indicated the course the Government and the ruling party intended to take in the coming years with regard to the further consolidation of both the democratization process and the strengthening of democratic institutions in Ethiopia. It was an impressive performance, demonstrating the respect of a victorious political party towards those who had loyally competed and lost, emphasizing his appreciation for the way the elections were held, the participation of the population, the sense of responsibility demonstrated by everyone, making the election a real demonstration of Ethiopia’s commitment to democracy. Above all, his words of respect for the decision of those who had not voted for the EPRDF, and the readiness with which he offered to engage and consult the losing parties in all major national issues in the future, is a real departure from the previous methods of politics in Ethiopia.
The outcome of this, the 4th national election, will undoubtedly help Ethiopia stay on course to consolidate further the democratic and economic gains achieved so far, and the people of Ethiopia’s efforts, as rightful owners of their own destiny and their own democratization process, to usher in this new era of Ethiopian renewal and renaissance. Democratization in Ethiopia is not without its adversaries, even if they are often ignored. This is why “A Week in the Horn” has concentrated in recent months on the theme of ‘ensuring the integrity of the elections’. It is by overcoming the challenges posed by these enemies that this election took place peacefully and tranquilly.
The Ethiopian election and economic development
The economic changes that have occurred in Ethiopia since 1991 could hardly be more marked. The government rapidly dismantled previously centralized economic institutions, introduced continuous economic reforms and transformed the centralized economy into a market-oriented economy to be dominated by the private sector. It rapidly became clear that there was a strong link between election, democracy and freedom on the one hand, and modernization and economic development on the other. This has been especially obvious during the last few years as the economy has really taken off with double-digit GDP growth. This is closely linked to the fundamental human and democratic rights provided in the Constitution including, of course, economic issues
In pursuit of these rights, the Government embarked on an agricultural-led economic development growth strategy, specifically targeting the rural poor. Pro-investment legislation encouraged the broad participation of the private sector, with former state-owned enterprises privatized. The Government left trade and business to the private sector while focusing on the development of basic infrastructure and social services. The private sector now dominates the economy. During the period between 1992/3 and 2007/8, the Ethiopian Investment Agency and regional Investment Offices licensed nearly 35,000 investment projects with an aggregate capital of just under 500 billion Ethiopian birr. Of this just over 52% came from the domestic private sector, and no more than 7% from the public sector. The remaining 41% came from foreign investors. Paralleling the average 11.5% in real GDP growth 2003-2009, the growth in the value of the agriculture, industry and service sectors amounted to 10.8%, 10.1% and 13.0%, respectively. The service sector is now the dominant element of the economy, overtaking the agricultural sector.
Significantly, general Government spending, both recurrent and capital expenditure, has shown substantial growth in the last five years. The former has grown by an average of over 13% and the latter has averaged over 30% growth. With the expenditure policy of the Government focusing more on development of infrastructure and service facilities, capital expenditure made up 53% of total expenditure in 2008/9. One major element in this has been investment in power-generation capacity. The Government inherited a capacity of 350MW in 1991. Production is now over 2000MW, and the plan is to reach 10,000MW in the next five years. The road infrastructure has expanded throughout the country; education and health services have registered a marked record of achievements; there has been a significant expansion of fixed telephone, mobile and Internet services; social welfare dimensions of development, including life expectancy, child mortality, literacy and other issues have shown similar advances.
The Government’s current vision is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and bring development up to the level of a middle-income country in order to eradicate the daunting challenge of poverty and improve people’s livelihoods. This needs accelerated and sustained economic growth. This is why it has implemented enormous development efforts in major sectors of the economy. The continued double-digit growth in the last few years indicates that Ethiopia is on the right path to meet these development objectives. The Government is now in the process of developing a new five year development plan, focusing on large-scale industrialization, large-scale commercial farming, the expansion of micro- and small-enterprises, and the creation of a strong developmental state with increased accountability.
All these achievements since 1991, particularly in the last decade, can be attributed to the democratization of Ethiopia, a process which has also strengthened the unity of the country. The success of these elections will certainly deepen democratization further, speed up economic development in Ethiopia and ensure greater unity. The speech of Prime Minister Meles on Tuesday signposts the promise of the future.
The positive impact of the elections on regional peace and security
The Horn of Africa, beset by a multitude of challenges, needs more than ever before stable and strong governments to maintain and sustain regional peace and security. The existence of legitimate governments with a clear mandate from their people is critical. Inevitably, elections are the most important instrument to ensure the holding of political power by governments which can contribute largely to the maintenance of peace and security within their own specific countries and within the sub-region. There’s no doubt that these elections in Ethiopia will enable the government to continue to consolidate Ethiopia’s internal peace as well as peace and security in the sub-region.
The results of last weekend’s vote guarantees Ethiopian’s positive and active contributions to the collective effort of maintaining peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa and on the African Continent in general. What appears to be the re-election of the ruling party will further encourage the critical role Ethiopia already plays, as current chairman of IGAD and as a country with significant influence in the region, in addressing the issues of Somalia, the peace process in Sudan, and the regional threats of terrorism and extremism which continue to pose such a danger to regional peace and security. Ethiopia, together with members of IGAD and in collaboration with the international community, currently exerts every effort to assist the two parties in the Sudan to address in good faith all aspects relating to the referendum with a view to ensuring a peaceful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
It is obvious that Ethiopia has been playing a very critical role for peace and stability on Somalia and for national reconciliation there. Together with the other IGAD countries, Ethiopia has continued to provide vital support to the TFG in all areas so that the internationally recognized government will be able to protect itself from the onslaught of terrorists and extremists, not all of whom are Somalis. The result of the 2010 elections will enable Ethiopia to continue this effort which is so critical for the region and for Africa as a whole, and even for the entire international community.
In light of the ongoing struggle between the democratic forces and the supporters of extremism in our region, the 2010 elections represent a major victory for the former.They underline the importance of holding elections that can establish democratic states which will genuinely contribute to the promotion of peace and stability. Ethiopia’s elections follow the elections held in the Sudan last month and show the increasing democratization of states in the region, though unfortunately the one very obvious exception to this remains Eritrea. The Sudanese election created a better understanding between the parties over the need for the full and expeditious implementation of the CPA and the referendum due in January. There’s no doubt that these successful and peaceful elections, in Ethiopia and in the Sudan, will strengthen the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa.
The international reactions
The elections were closely watched by Ethiopia’s partners in the international community, and after the declaration of provisional results indicating a landslide victory for the incumbent, a number of statements were issued, by the EU Observer Mission, by the European Union and the US as well as by the African Union Observer Mission. In a press release on May 25th, EU Commission Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Lady Catherine Ashton, described the elections as “an important moment in the democratic process in the country”. Welcoming “the peaceful conduct of the elections” Lady Ashton congratulated the Ethiopian voters for “showing their commitment to this process with high turnout.” She recalled the EU’s long relationship with Ethiopia, and reiterated its readiness to work with Ethiopia to address any challenges that might be encountered and “to further deepen relations with the government and peoples of Ethiopia.”
The African Union’s preliminary report, as detailed above, hailed the voting as the true expression of the will of the Ethiopian people. It declared the process as free and fair but identified some minor irregularities which it can be expected to elaborate in its final report. The EU Electoral Observer Mission has also issued its preliminary findings. It details a number of largely accurate facts, appreciating the high voter turnout and the seriousness with which the people of Ethiopia take the process of elections. It rightly describes the peaceful and calm conduct of the election and the competency and professionalism of the National Electoral Board. It describes the allocation of air time among political parties as largely fair and further points out that the secrecy of the vote was respected. Party agents and domestic observers were present in the majority of the polling stations it observed.
Overall, the report bears witness to the commitment of the peoples of Ethiopia to the ideals of democracy. On the other hand what the report also does is to get into a political interpretation of the overall democratization process in Ethiopia. Based on a specific judgment which has been a source of controversy between Ethiopia and some of its partners for a long while, the report suggests “the electoral process fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties.” The only evidence for the former appears to be the lack of a national voters’ register thought there are easily available registers at local levels. The lack of a national register is certainly something that might be improved but it can hardly affect the credibility of the entire process seriously. With respect to the lack of a level playing field, much of the comment in the preliminary report appears to be mere anecdote. The report even appears to suggest that elements in this include the fact that the EPRDF was better organized than the opposition, that the VOA was supposedly jammed, that some major opposition figures had left the country long before and that the opposition was badly divided. It is difficult to see exactly what this has to do with observation of the election. Observers are not academics to theorize on the various aspects of the Ethiopian democratization process. They should remember their mandate, an din that regard there is no doubt that one can claim that the report itself hardly measures up to international standards.
Despite the largely minor irregularities identified, the election ought to be seen by Ethiopia’s partners as a watershed in the country’s democratization process. The African Union, for obvious reasons, is on the right track if only because it keeps away from unnecessary political value judgments. Ethiopia, of course, appreciates the interest shown and support extended by those partners who are constructively engaged in strengthening its democratic institutions and deepening its democratic processes and governance. It sincerely hopes that the success of this election will facilitate greater support for the democratic processes in Ethiopia. Democracy is an organic process that needs to be nurtured, and is grown from within, not imposed from without.
Ethiopian elections and Eritrea
There was a certain asymmetric coincidence about the voting for Ethiopia’s fourth round of national and federal elections on May 23rd and Eritrea’s celebration of 19 years of independence on May 24th without having held a single election. It is incidentally symptomatic of the Eritrean regime’s interest in reality that it gets the date wrong: Eritrea’s formal independence came in May 1993, after the referendum, not in 1991.
This coincidence of timing aptly sums up the difference between the two states, one of which has devoted the last 19 years to establishing a democratic government, steadily devolving power and authority from central to local government within a representative federal system; the other has concentrated on removing any and all vestiges of democracy and on establishing the most highly militarized and centralized dictatorship in Africa. President Isaias’s ambitions have not been limited to Eritrea itself. He continues to try to make Eritrea the leader of all the violent-prone non-state actors in the region. His aggressive foreign policy, forcing conflict at various times on Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia, as well as regularly interfering in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia, is well known. Eritrea has consistently armed and supported organizations involved in armed struggle and terrorist practices in Ethiopia and Somalia. These efforts and its attack on Djibouti in 2008 is why the UN Security Council, following requests from IGAD and the AU, finally sanctioned Eritrea last December.
In his latest anniversary speech to the people of Eritrea, last Monday, President Isaias repeated his challenges to the Security Council’s Resolution 1907: What are the accusations against Eritrea all about? Who are the accusers? Who is the arbitrator or judge? What is its legal authority? Why has Eritrea’s right to self-defense not been respected? The answers have, of course, been widely publicized and are, indeed, self-evident. The evidence supplied by the Sanctions Committee and by countries in the region has been detailed, undeniable and incontrovertible. This didn’t stop President Isaias claiming that what he called the “naïve and contemptuous practice” of the resolution was shameful. He returned, as usual, to his favorite topics: Ethiopian responsibility for the border conflict, and US responsibility for the problems of Somalia and the creation of turmoil in other countries; conspiracies and hostilities aimed against Eritrea by everybody else. In a submission to the Security Council earlier this month, the Eritrean Government blamed Somali warlords, Somalia’s immediate neighbors in particular Ethiopia, and the US for the situation there. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it ignored Eritrea’s own involvement and made no reference to Eritrea’s active and continuing responsibility for arming and supporting extremist and terrorist organizations in Somalia.
The Eritrean statement contrasted sharply with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti’s briefing to the Security Council on May 19th. He detailed Eritrea’s complete failure to respond to the Security Council’s demands for Eritrea to withdraw from Djibouti territory and Ras Doumeira. He pointed out that Eritrea had embarked on a systematic attempt to destabilize Djibouti through the training of infiltrators to carry out sabotage against infrastructure and urban areas. President Ismail made it clear that Eritrea remained entirely unswayed by any Council actions so far. He urged the Council to “grasp the wider implications of Eritrea’s intransigence and increasing violence.” UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, is expected to report to the Security Council on Eritrea’s compliance with Resolution 1907 within the next few weeks.
Eritrea has made no sign of any move to change its policies. There has been plenty of evidence of continued Eritrean efforts at destabilization in Ethiopia. Eritrea has not been content with its long-standing military, logistic and financial support provided to various organizations committed to violence, teams of saboteurs and terrorist have also been dispatched across the border into north-west Tigray to plant dozens of land-mines or explode bombs in Humera and other towns in the region. The most recent of these efforts to try and disrupt the elections was a bomb in a bar in Adi Daro with five killed and 20 injured. Eritrea’s role in trying to encourage opposition to the election was underlined by its organization of what was rather generously called the “Oromo, Ogaden and Eritrean communities in Germany and neighboring countries” which has just issued a statement attacking the election. This was particularly ironic considering the millions of Oromos and Somalis in the Oromo and Somali Regional States who turned out to vote on May 23rd.
Ethiopia’s successful and peaceful election on May 23rd, whatever criticisms might be made about the conduct of the process, should be seen within the context of a region in which the violence-prone, one-man rule of Eritrea consistently attempts to destabilize not just Ethiopia but the region as a whole, repeatedly acts as a ‘spoiler’ in Somalia, has gone to war with Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia, and quite deliberately continues these policies in face of condemnation from the UN and the international community. The record is undeniable and unequalled.
There is a very clear ideological divide between the elective processes of Ethiopia and the centralized one-man rule in Eritrea. This is one reason why Eritrea has been so determined to try and disrupt Ethiopia’s elections. The contrast between the two is very obvious. Speaking on Tuesday this week, after the preliminary results were known, the Prime Minister stressed that the EPRDF had been given a mandate by the people. He spoke of respecting the decision of those who did not vote for the EPRDF as well as those that did; the EPRDF recognized their right to participate and to be heard. He said the government that the EPRDF would now establish would serve all in an equal manner. And he pledged that it would work “by consulting and involving” all parties on all major national issues, as long as they respect the Constitution and the laws of the land.
The contrast with President Isaias is instructive and illuminating. President Isaias’s views can be summed up by his comments that “a constitution has nothing to do with the formation of parties” (Eritrea’s constitution has of course never been implemented), and that he did not expect any other parties (than his own PFDJ) to appear in Eritrea in his lifetime. He first expressed these views publicly over a decade ago. He hasn’t changed his mind. Nor has he allowed Eritrea’s policies to alter to any significant degree.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs