Major Nordic paper shines light on road to substandard & undemocratic nature of Ethiopia’s May 24 Election

17 May

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Credit (Karttakeskus, via JH HS)

Credit (Karttakeskus, via JH HS)

Helsingin Sanomat, daily newspaper with the largest subscription in Finland and the Nordic countries, has carried on its Sunday, May 17, 2015 edition an article dealing with Ethiopia’s forthcoming election. The article is penned by the veteran journalist Antti Ämmälä and is titled: Vaalit ovat rahantuhlausta. Its English rendition conveys the literal notion that from the get go the May 24, 2015 election has been money wasted for false democracy.

Prof. Beyene Petros

Prof. Beyene Petros

That phrase was picked up from an interview with Prof Beyene Petros, Chairman of the Social Democratic opposition coalition Medrek. Beyene Petros says, “Ethiopia is a fake democracy, where election is mere pretense. Basically it is just a waste of money.”

At the same time, Ethiopian opposition parties also accuse Finland and other donors of being cozy with the TPLF/EPRDF regime, despite its blatant violations of the human rights of Ethiopians. They attribute this problem, the paper writes, to donors’ attaching greater importance to their investments in the country. Not only that, adds the journalist, Ethiopian opposition groups are strongly persuaded that donors are quietly extending support to the election “in order to create even the image of democracy”, which is good for their investments.

Amb Sirpa Mäenpää

Amb Sirpa Mäenpää

Finland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Sirpa Mäenpää denies that Finland looks through its fingers the violation of human rights in Ethiopia. In admitting the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, the envoy, nonetheless, pointed out that Finland prefers quiet diplomacy within the European Union (EU), fearing public criticism would risk hardening the regime’s attitude. To justify her point of view Ambassador Mäenpää cited the example of two Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who in 2012 were imprisoned in Ethiopia for some eleven months for illegally entering the off-limit Ogaden region. They were released without serving their eleven-year sentences.

Ethiopia is a long-standing partner of Finnish development cooperation. In 2014, Finland’s support was approximately EUR 14 million.

Helsingin Sanomat notes that, while Ethiopia in the last decade has made progress in poverty reduction and in child mortality declines in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by the degree it has become the Horn of Africa’s foremost development aid recipient nation, equally unfortunate is the badly deteriorated human rights situation since recent years.

Eng. Yilikal Getnet

Eng. Yilikal Getnet

Says Yilkal Getent, leader of the Blue Party: “Without respect for fundamental human rights, Ethiopia can not achieve sustainable development. [That is why] Finland and other donors should exert pressure to bear on the Ethiopian regime on human rights issues.”

Without the people having a say in the change underway to which they should become a part of and its agent, Semayawi Party’s leader further added that development could come to standstill. He believes that donors have the means and opportunity, since the regime would not like to lose millions of dollars in development aid.

Having visited the country, decoding opposition views and speaking to diplomats, Antti Ämmälä asserts that Ethiopia under the TPLF/EPRDF has on a regular basis consigned numerous politicians and civil society activists and journalists to prison.

The paper recalled that Ethiopia’s ruling TPLF/EPRDF took 99.6 percent of parliamentary seats in the previous election in 2010.

In the same manner, only a few opposition parties have been approved for the forthcoming election. Even then, the Ethiopian National Election Board has made almost impossible campaigning by opposition candidates and their parties, among others, going along with the ruling party denying them of a modicum of independent media.

The few parties that are contesting have suffered sabotaging of their activities, with the ruling party denying them the right to hold rallies, arresting candidates and the ability to reach the electorate. In brief, the paper observes, the treatment of opposition candidates and dissidents in preparation for the election in general has become tougher and rougher.

Many candidates thus have been forced to witness the regime’s fury, in the form of electoral sabotages, police violence and the usual imprisonments.

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