A report by conflict analysis and prevention group ICG which released on December 16 claims that the ethnic violence and mounting rancor among political elites could force Ethiopia to postpone landmark elections set for May. ICG further warned that if the situation persists then Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed may have to seek an election delay. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, for his extraordinary efforts to end the decades-long conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.
Yet less than two weeks after the Nobel announcement in October, anti-Abiy protests left 86 people dead. A divisive and bloody campaign, with candidates making openly ethnic-based appeals for votes, could tip the country over the edge, read the report.
Abiy was appointed as Prime Minister in April 2018 by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front after several years of anti-government protests. The Nobel Laureate as a PM implemented political reforms that won him praise yet it also lifted the lid on long-repressed tensions between Ethiopia’s many ethnic groups. Ethnic clashes that displaced nearly three million people last year have largely spread tensions in the country to date. In October, a prominent activist from the Oromo ethnic group accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him, spurring protests and violence that left more than 80 people dead.
Though the elections are being pushed forward, it will be hurdled, ICG said in its report. The discord in Abiy's home region of Oromia highlighted by the October violence; hostility between Abiy's administration and the once-dominant Tigray People's Liberation Front; and disputes over land between the Amhara and Tigray regions form the major flashpoints. Moreover, ethnic groups in Ethiopia's diverse southern region demand autonomy. The Sidama ethnic group voted to form their own regional state in a referendum last month, and other groups in the south would follow.
The EPRDF's coalition into a single political party, dubbed the Ethiopian Prosperity Party also forms another major matter of concern. Highlighting the growing divisions ahead of 2020 elections, Ethiopian defense minister Lemma Megersa has criticized plans to transform the ruling coalition into a single party. The split between the country's most powerful ethnic Oromo politicians could increase political uncertainty ahead of 2020 polls, and hinder Abiy's reformist agenda, quote analysts to media.
The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has already rejected the plans to transform the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) into one party. There is no constitutional provision for pushing elections past the May deadline.
ICG senior analyst William Davison told the media that the decision of poll dates is to be taken as soon as possible, if there's a delay then even that has to be decided fast as challenges increase when elections get closer.