Ethiopia's ruling party wins national election in landslide

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party on Saturday was declared the winner of last month’s national election in a landslide, assuring a second five-year term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The National Election Board of Ethiopia said the ruling party won 410 seats out of 436 contested in the federal parliament, which will see dozens of other seats remain vacant after one-fifth of constituencies didn't vote due to unrest or logistical reasons. Ethiopia's new government is expected to be formed in October.

The vote was a major test for Abiy, who came to power in 2018 after the former prime minister resigned amid widespread protests. Abiy oversaw dramatic political reforms that led in part to a Nobel Peace Prize the following year, but critics say he is backtracking on political and media freedoms. Abiy also has drawn massive international criticism for his handling of the conflict in the Tigray region has that left thousands of people dead.

June’s vote, which had been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and logistical issues, was largely peaceful but opposition parties decried harassment and intimidation. No voting was held in the Tigray region.

Abiy has hailed the election as the nation’s first attempt at a free and fair vote, but the United States has called it “significantly flawed,” citing the detention of some opposition figures and insecurity in parts of Africa’s second most populous country.

The leader of the main opposition Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party, Birhanu Nega, lost while opposition parties won just 11 seats. The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party has filed 207 complaints with the electoral body over the vote.

Popular opposition parties in the Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia's federal states, boycotted the election. The ruling party ran alone in several dozen constituencies.

In a social media post late Saturday, Abiy called the election historic in that it was conducted by an electoral body “free from any influences.” He promised to include some opposition figures who took part in the election in his new government.

The head of the electoral board, Birtukan Mideksa, said during Saturday's announcement that the vote was held at a time when Ethiopia was experiencing challenges, “but this voting process has guaranteed that people will be governed through their votes.”

She added: "I want to confirm that we have managed to conduct a credible election.”

Voter turnout was just over 90% among the more than 37 million people who had been registered to vote.

The Prosperity Party was formed after the dismantling of Ethiopia’s former ruling coalition, which had been dominated by Tigray politicians. Disagreements over that decision signaled the first tensions between Abiy and Tigray leaders that finally led to the conflict in the region in November.

Though Abiy hinted in 2018 that Ethiopia will limit a prime minister's terms to two, it is not clear whether he will act on that.

Desalegn Chanie, a member of the opposition National Movement of Amhara who won a parliament seat, told The Associated Press the election board performed well overall but has failed in its main duty of being impartial and giving fair judgements for complaints.

“Local election officials, armed men and cadres were snatching the badges of election observers and even beating them,” he said.

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