Ethiopia’s 547-member House has only one non-government MP; now …

TWO of Ethiopia’s most prominent opposition figures have said they aren’t standing in May’s parliamentary elections after unfavourable
decisions by the Horn of Africa
nation’s electoral authorities.

The sole opposition lawmaker in parliament, Girma
Seifu, and the head of the three-year-old Blue Party, Yilkal Getnet, said in
interviews that they’re victims of biased judgments that will result in another
landslide victory for the ruling coalition on May 24.

“This election is only ceremonial, it’s not really
to win the democratic process and empower the people,” Yilkal said by phone
Thursday from the capital, Addis Ababa. “The government totally closed

In 2010 elections, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allied parties won all but two seats
in a 547-member lower chamber.
The electoral environment was “heavily” tilted
in favour of the coalition, according to the European Union.

In 2010 prime minister Meles Zenawi led the
EPRDF to their successive controversial victory. Meles died in August 2012, and
was replaced by his deputy Hailemariam Desalegn. This election will be the first
major test of post-Meles Ethiopia.

Last month Yilkal lost out in a lottery to decide
who could stand for a parliamentary seat which more than the maximum of 12
candidates wanted to compete for, he said. In January, the electoral board
ruled that a faction of Girma’s Unity for Democracy and Justice party that he
didn’t support legitimately represents the whole organisation, he said Thursday
by phone from the capital.

The electoral board hasn’t given a reason why
around 200 Blue Party candidates out of 400 submitted were not registered, said
Yilkal. The lottery process unfairly favours parties who stood in the last
election, he said.

Candidate registration

A court appeal over the board’s decision on UDJ
won’t be concluded in time for the polls, Girma said.

“They already finished registering the candidates
and we are not in that process, we’re already out of that election,” he said.
“The clear consequence is that there is no real election.”

The opposition complaints will be investigated,
said Wondimu Golla, the deputy head of the service and relations department at
the electoral board.

“We are always doing our task based on the
electoral law,” he said by phone from Adama city on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the UK aid agency redirected
block grants to Ethiopia’s government into specific programmes, partly because
of concerns over political rights and the impact on electoral competition.

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