Ethiopia election: Abiy Ahmed wins with huge majority

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won the country’s delayed elections with an overwhelming majority, the election board said on Saturday.

The board said Mr. Abiy’s Prosperity Party won 410 out of 436 seats, giving him another five-year term in office.

Polls were not held in the war-torn Tigray region, where many thousands are living in famine conditions.

In all, a fifth of the country failed to take part in voting owing to insecurity and logistical problems.

Another round of elections has been provisionally scheduled for 6 September in the affected areas, but there is no date for a vote in Tigray.

The election had already been delayed due to the pandemic.

Mr. Abiy, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, described the vote as a “historically inclusive election” in a statement on Twitter.

A new government is expected to be formed in October. However, there are concerns about the election’s integrity.

Opposition parties had complained that a government crackdown against their officials had disrupted their plans to prepare.

Berhanu Nega said his party, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, had filed more than 200 complaints after observers in a number of regions were blocked by local officials and militiamen.

Securing a parliamentary majority gives Prime Minister Abiy a governing mandate, but instead of celebration, the focus will quickly turn to how he will deal with mounting challenges.

The ruinous war in Tigray, in which he prematurely declared victory, has killed thousands of Ethiopians, displaced millions, and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

His government has also been accused of cutting power and blocking phone lines across the region, leaving hospitals to run on generators.

His unilateral declaration of a ceasefire has not been heeded by the Tigray rebel forces, who continue to fight Eritrean soldiers and Amhara militias.

This election win will do little to improve Mr. Abiy’s reputation in the eyes of the international community. His next moves will be closely watched at home and abroad.

The state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said there were “no serious or widespread human rights violations” in stations it observed.

However, in a preliminary report, the EHRC said that some constituencies experienced “improper arrests”, voter intimidation, and “harassment” of observers and journalists.

It also said it had observed several killings in the days leading up to the vote in the regional state of Oromia.

In May, the EU accused Ethiopia of failing to guarantee the independence of its election.

The election was Mr. Abiy’s first electoral test since coming to power in 2018.

He has clamped down on corruption, released political prisoners, appointed more women to the cabinet, and made peace with neighboring Eritrea, following a 1998-2000 border war that left tens of thousands of people dead.

He won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but just a year later, he waged a military operation in his own country – deploying troops to Tigray to oust the TPLF as the region’s ruling party after it seized military bases in what Mr. Abiy saw as a bid to overthrow him.

On Saturday, for the first time in two weeks, the UN World Food Programme began moving aid into Tigray. Different sides in the conflict have been accusing each other of blocking much-needed shipments.

The UN said on Friday that humanitarian operations were being constrained by the absence of essential services including fuel, telecommunications and electricity.