Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ethiopia Poll Reveals Rural-Urban Divide

Ethiopia's recent elections have been marked by a huge breakthrough for the Ethiopian opposition, which in the last parliament held only 12 seats.

It also is said to have been the most open election held in Ethiopia, and the first to be monitored by international observers.

Opposition parties are now expected to increase their representation in parliament significantly.

Though official results are not yet available, the Opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) claims to have won more than 140 seats so far.

The CUD has also won by big margins all 23 seats in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Since the prime minister has banned political gatherings and demonstrations for the next month, opposition leaders and supporters could only afford muted celebrations of their historic victory in the at CUD headquarters.

Urban areas

The poor performance of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in Addis Ababa and other major cities was not totally unexpected.

Many of Ethiopia's politically active people reside in these towns.

Addis Ababa is also home to many of Ethiopia's unemployed youth and hundreds of thousands of people who fled from the rural areas to the city in search of livelihood but found none.

Unemployment has been of great concern to the urban dwellers.

Political analysts point to recent demolition of slums by the Addis Ababa city government, which left many people homeless, as one of the reasons for the government's dismal performance in the city.

Urban dwellers were also the main audiences targeted in televised debates that created awareness among the usually apolitical Ethiopian public.

It was just a matter of time therefore before the people showed their dissatisfaction - and the election presented them with the right opportunity.

So it is no wonder that the mayor, Arkebe Orkubaye, and his deputy, Hilawe Yoseph, were both hounded out of office.

Also defeated are Education Minister Genet Zewdie, Capacity Building Minister Teferra Walwa and Revenue Minister Getachew Belay.

The government has conceded defeat in Addis Ababa.

Information Minister Bereket Simon said his party welcomed early results of the elections despite losing the capital. The EPRDF termed the Addis Ababa results as indicators of how democratic the elections were.


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