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. Dozens of other seats will remain vacant ; one-fifth of the constituencies didn’t vote because of 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 because of 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, Berhanu 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.
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 more than 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.