Ethiopian PM Admits Half of Population Is Voiceless

Fredrick Ngugi October 12, 2016
An Ethiopian man mourns the death of a colleague who died in the ongoing Oromo protests. Quartz

After months of deadly protests in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is finally admitting that about half of the country’s population is disenfranchised, reports BBC.

Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday, Desalegn responded to questions from local journalists about the allegations of human rights abuses in the country.

“We have 49 percent of voices who are not represented in the parliament even though they have voted for the opposition, because of the electoral system,” Desalegn said.

His statement comes a day after his government declared a state of emergency, following months of massive protests by the Oromo people who have been accusing the Ethiopian government of segregation.

Biased Electoral System

Since November 2015, millions of Ethiopians, largely from the Oromo ethnic group, have been staging anti-government protests in different parts of the country, and one of the main issues they want to be addressed is the country’s electoral system, which they claim is biased.

Under the current voting system, the ruling party appears to have an upper hand over the opposition: In last year’s election, the ruling party took all 546 seats in parliament, leaving those who voted for the opposition unrepresented.

Speaking to journalists this week, Desalegn admitted that the current electoral system has excluded the opposition and promised to initiate the necessary processes for its reform.

His sentiments were echoed by Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome on Monday who said the current system needs to be changed in order to accommodate everyone, including the opposition.

“We want to reform the electoral system so the voices of those who are not represented can also be heard in the parliament,” Desalegn said.

According to Article 56 of the Ethiopian Constitution, “[The] political party or coalition of political parties that has the greatest number of seats in the House of People’s Representatives shall form the executive and lead it.”

Still, Desalegn’s statement is being criticized by Ethiopia’s opposition leaders who believe he is insincere and wants to hoodwink Merkel.

“We have been demanding this for several years. They are always promising things for the consumption of the international community, but it’s never implemented,” Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federal Congress, told the AFP.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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