Head of state and government: Girma Wolde-Giorgis and Meles Zenawi
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 85 million
Life expectancy: 56.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 138/124 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 35.9 per cent
The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won the parliamentary elections in May, which took place in a context of intimidation, harassment and restrictions on freedom of association and assembly. Legislation that severely limits human rights activities came into force. The independent press was severely restricted. State resources, assistance and opportunities were broadly used to control the population.
Parliamentary and State Council elections took place in May. The EPRDF and a small coalition of affiliated parties won 99.6 per cent of parliamentary seats. An opposition coalition, Medrek, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia, accused the government of electoral fraud and called for a rerun. The National Electoral Board rejected the call and a subsequent appeal to the Federal Supreme Court was dismissed.
The final report of the EU Election Observation Mission stated that the elections fell short of international commitments. The findings highlighted the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties; violations of freedom of expression, assembly and movement of opposition party members; misuse of state resources by the ruling party; and a lack of independent media coverage. The Prime Minister described the report as "useless trash" and the Chief EU Observer was not granted access to Ethiopia to present the final report.
Ethiopia was considered to have one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The government received praise from the UN for being on track to halve its poverty rate by 2015. However, the UN also stated that increasing inequality in urban areas and poor education standards were obstacles to development and that Ethiopia was not making sufficient progress on gender equality and maternal mortality.
Pre-election violence and repression
State resources, assistance and opportunities were used repeatedly before May's elections as leverage to pressure citizens to leave opposition parties. Education opportunities, civil service jobs and food assistance were often contingent on membership of the ruling party. Immediately prior to the election, voters in Addis Ababa were reportedly threatened with the withdrawal of state assistance if they did not vote for the EPRDF.
The build-up to the elections was punctuated by incidents of political violence.
- Aregawi Gebreyohannes, a candidate for Arena-Tigray, one of the opposition parties forming Medrek, was stabbed to death by six unidentified men in Tigray on 2 March. The government rejected opposition claims that the attack was politically motivated and said it had been a "personal quarrel" in a bar. A man was tried and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. The opposition said that the trial was "arranged and orchestrated" and that Aregawi Gebreyohannes had previously been subjected to government harassment.
Other killings were also reported. The Oromo Federalist Congress party reported that Biyansa Daba, an opposition activist, was beaten to death on 7 April because of his political activities. In May, the government announced that a policeman had been stabbed to death by two opposition members who had confessed and were carrying Medrek identity cards. Their trial and conviction reportedly took place within one week. On 23 and 24 May, two members of the Oromo People's Congress party were shot in Oromia. The opposition stated that the government's aim was to stop protests; the government stated that the men had been trying to storm a ballot collection office.
Medrek reported in February that armed men were preventing its members from registering as candidates.