Regional ruling party wins all seats in Ethiopia’s ‘illegal’ polls

The ruling party in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region won all contested seats in elections this week that have further poisoned an already hostile relationship with the federal government, an election official said Friday.

Official turnout was “97 or 98 percent” out of more than 2.6 million registered voters, regional election commissioner Muluwork Kidanemariam told AFP.

“The total seats for all the regional constituencies were won by the TPLF,” Muluwork said, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The regional parliament is composed of 190 seats — 152 of which were up for grabs in Wednesday’s polls.

The remaining 38 seats will be allocated after negotiations among the five political parties who participated in the vote, meaning there is still a chance for some opposition representation, Muluwork said.

The elections mark a low point in a bitter dispute between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Tigray, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before anti-government protests swept Abiy to power in 2018.

Ethiopia was supposed to hold national elections in August, but the national poll body announced in March they would need to be postponed because of the pandemic.

However Tigrayan leaders rejected the extension of mandates — which would have expired in October — contending that if national elections did not happen, Abiy’s government would become illegitimate.

Their decision to hold their own elections this week has rankled federal officials, who have said they have “no legal basis” and are “null and void”.

The TPLF led the armed struggle to topple the brutal Derg regime in 1991 and went on to control the governing coalition that took over.

Though the party has been sidelined under Abiy, it remains in command in Tigray, whose people make up six percent of Ethiopia’s population of 110 million.

Opposition leaders began tempering expectations before results were released, saying they expected the TPLF to win most if not all contested seats.

On Friday Hayalu Godefay, chairman of opposition party Salsay Woyane Tigray, raised the possibility of “fraud” but said he was still gathering information on how voting went.

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