Tense Run-Up to Ethiopian Elections

With all the attention to Sudan’s elections, it would be easy to forget about Ethiopia‘s, scheduled for May 23rd. Even though Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his EPRDF are favored to win, some analysts fear a repeat of the violence that marred the 2005 elections. Heated pre-election rhetoric adds to that worry:

The ruling party said late on Tuesday that Beyene Petros, leader of the main opposition coalition Medrek, told thousands of supporters it was possible to oust the government violently.

“He said that if the public is not happy with a government they can create some kind of problem, can protest and can bring down the government without elections,” ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) spokesman, Sekuture Getachew, told Reuters late on Tuesday.

“We can only guess they are inclining toward some kind of violent activities,” said Sekuture.

Beyene called the allegations “outrageous” and said his speech only mentioned constitutional means of removing governments, such as votes of no confidence.

I neither want to make false equivalencies (“both sides talk tough, so it all evens out”) nor absolve the opposition of responsibility (“they’re the opposition so they must be the good guys”), but regardless of who one favors in the elections the rhetoric is a cause for concern.

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