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Ethiopians Confident in Elections, Leadership

Ethiopians Confident in Elections, Leadership

by Jay Loschky

Story Highlights

  • Majority of Ethiopians (55%) say they are confident in honesty of elections
  • Skepticism creeping up in recent years

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a series of delays, Ethiopians head to the ballot box on Monday to vote in the country's first national election since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018.

In late 2020, just prior to the start of the Tigray conflict and after elections were delayed the first time because of the pandemic, more than half of Ethiopians (55%) expressed confidence in the honesty of elections. Ethiopians' trust in their elections has narrowed since Ahmed's ascendance and the limited political opening it created.


Line graph. A slim majority of Ethiopians expressed confidence in the honesty of their elections and 38% are not confident.

The election, twice postponed from its original August 2020 scheduled date, was once expected to be a potential turning point for a country that brought youthful leadership to power following years of unrest.

Shortly after taking office in April 2018, the country's 41-year-old prime minister made international headlines by welcoming back exiled political groups and quickly making peace with enemy Eritrea -- actions that won him both the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize and an 89% approval rating domestically in July 2018, with majority approval in every region. His current approval stands at 77%.

Monday's election takes place amid a much darker backdrop, as reports of political arrests increase and conflict rages on in the northern Tigray region over accusations of human rights abuses and potential famine. Still, despite these crises and the ruling Prosperity Party's structural advantages that limit opposition competition, there may be reason to believe that the conduct of these elections may be an improvement.

Civil society organizations are expected to play an enhanced role, and the National Election Board of Ethiopia has grown increasingly independent under the leadership of former political prisoner and exile, Birtukan Mideksa. Next week's parliamentary elections could mark a messy but important step on Ethiopia's political and democratic journey -- or a slide back toward authoritarianism and conflict.

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