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Christian charity warns Ethiopia's elections do not meet democratic standards

by Kelly Valencia

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has told Premier Ethiopia's general elections do not meet democratic standards.  

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018, ending decades of authoritarian rule, is seeking to cement his power in what he has called "the nation's first attempt at free and fair elections".

But many humanitarian activists have argued the elections are not sufficiently democratic as ballots will not be cast in more than 100 of the 547 constituencies across the country, including the war-torn Tigray region. 

"It's difficult to say exactly how credible democratic elections that give credence to one's rule can be held, while at least three regions won't be able to vote, and a lot of opposition politicians have been jailed," Dr Kataza Gondwe, head of CSW's Africa and Middle East team, told Premier.

"The EU observers are not there because they failed to negotiate free access to all of the country. There are a lot of things that are happening in this election that mitigate against free and fair elections. 

"On the one hand, it may be important for the seeming legitimacy of the prime minister in terms of credible democratic elections, but this does not quite reach the standard," she continued. 

In 2019, Mr Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the conflict with neighbouring Eritrea and has since vowed to make Ethiopia a democratic country. 

But the elections are overshadowed by the ongoing humanitarian crisis happening in the Tigray region. Many NGOs have warned against a possible "genocide" happening in the area with the UN scaling-up its food distribution programme as many are facing famine. 

At least 1,000 Christians have been killed in the Tigray region. 

"The Prime Minister professes Christianity of an evangelical kind of faith. However, the Orthodox patriarch, who has openly said that the situation in Tigray, for example, amounts to genocide, and that the world must come in and help Eritrea reconcile itself in all of these areas, is currently under house arrest. So, I think Christians, depending on their feelings on the current situation will vote in different ways," Dr Gondwe said. 

No voting date for the Tigray region has been set. 

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