Yes, a Fake Election, but for what Purpose? – Messay Kebede

By Messay Kebede

I am still struggling to make sense of Sunday’s election from the viewpoint of the Woyanne government itself. There is no doubt that its results represent a crushing and demoralizing defeat for the opposition. Such a colossal defeat shows once again the pettiness and the self-defeating impact of the disputes among opposition forces by underlying the imperative of unity as the only path to acquire any political weight in a democratic contest. It also reflects the extent to which the opposition has underestimated the power of manipulation and intimidation that the Meles’s regime still possesses. As a result, it jumped into the electoral contest without sufficient guarantees of impartiality, a position inspired by the prevailing belief that the regime is on its last legs.

But the big enigma of Sunday’s election has to do with the exact benefit that the Woyanne ruling clique is gaining from a defeat of this magnitude of the opposition. The more the regime denies that votes were rigged and voters and candidates intimidated, harassed, and threatened, the less easily answerable becomes the question of knowing why the regime cooked up a victory claiming 99.66 % of parliamentary seats. Let alone external observers and governments, any person alien to Ethiopian politics would conclude that such a result can be obtained only if the opposition has been stifled or non-existent.

If the Woyanne regime wanted to shore up its legitimacy badly tarnished by its electoral defeat in 2005, the reasonable thing would have been to give some seats to the opposition, thereby providing some semblance of fairness to the election. To the extent that a total victory takes away all credibility from the electoral process and, therefore, defeats the initial purpose of recognition, the decision to conduct a fake election resulting in the ousting of the opposition from the parliament sounds discordant indeed. Hence my question: what is the purpose of plotting a fake election that lamentably fails to convince anyone, since we can assume that Meles and his clique expect some king of benefit from the exercise?

I have played with various hypotheses; I have also reflected on what some commentators had already said or written, such as the construction of a totalitarian state or the deliberate intention of undermining nonviolent forms of struggle. These two reasons are valid: the eradication of the opposition completes the construction of a full-fledged totalitarian state, just as it presents nonviolent opposition as a hopeless strategy. However, these two goals hardly agree with the equally important need that the Woyanne regime has to be recognized as a legitimate winner by the international community.

All the same, let us look closer: there is more than one way of obtaining international recognition. There is the democratic way of majority vote; there is also the default way demonstrating the utter insignificance or unviability of the opposition. As far as the Woyanne regime is concerned, Sunday’s election has shown to Ethiopians and the whole world that there is no opposition to speak of. In my view, the decision to concoct an election purging the opposition from the parliament reflects the TPLF’s complete desertion of the very idea of free and fair elections. The TPLF elite has drawn from its 2005 electoral debacle the final conclusion that it cannot rely on any sort of fair competition.

On the other hand, one of the implications of the total defeat of the peaceful opposition is to discourage nonviolent struggles and push more people toward armed struggle. The prospect of widened violent confrontations will allow the Woyanne to openly give up its democratic façade and crack down opponents, henceforth accused of using unconstitutional means to come to power. In this game of violence, the Woyanne regime is better equipped and experienced and can also gain recognition as a government defending itself against terrorism.

The other and by far the most important implication of the crushing defeat of the opposition is its ability to provide emotional soothing. The humiliation of the 2005 election is still fresh in the mind of many Woyanne leaders and cadres. From the viewpoint of removing an emotional wound, the landslide victory supplies a demonstration of force that humiliates both opposition leaders and those millions of Ethiopians who voted for Kinijit. It shows, by hook or by crook, the total control of the country by the Woyanne totalitarian machine. In other words, it says: here is the bare fact, deal with it!

From such a resounding demonstration of force, we can even expect a timid opening of the political space. Now that things have been straightened out, the game of “free election” can resume with the understanding that the right to oppose––a gracious gift of the victor––must never include the goal of defeating the TPLF.

(Dr Messay Kebede is professor of philosophy at The University of Dayton, Ohio. He can be reached at

10 thoughts on “Yes, a Fake Election, but for what Purpose? – Messay Kebede

  1. walewa on

    The opposition parties are to be blamed here. Knowing all the facts and the outcome results the opposition parties still participated, which legitimize the election process to an extent be acceptable with minor irregularities. It’s unreal to expect the comments made by EU or USA will bring any change in the relation they have with Ethiopia late alone the election process. If it was as bad as we all think the Western main stream media would have been covering the story.

    I hope, none of the opposition part would come out and say “I told you so”.


  2. ene on

    I like Eskinder Nega’s theory that the EPRDF leadership in Addis lost control over (underestimated) the ability of its local cadres’ to deliver each constituency. This is a proof that the totalitarian government has its tentacles everywhere. Any genuine opposition would not request for a re-run which could actually legitimize the election by giving EPRDF the opportunity to correct its mistakes.


    I think it’s a blessing in disguise.This outcome leaves us with the real courageous oppositin forces,and the Ethiopian people behind it,that don’t take any option off the table to evict Woyanne.

  4. yinges on

    You should never underestimate the inferiority-superiority complex of TPLF. If it is not one, it is the other.

  5. Yekefaw on

    The major problem is with us, we need somebody else sacrifies for our freedom not oursleves.

  6. just an external observer on

    What in gods name are you trying to say. What do you mean a colossal defeat. Why would such a drama be a crushing and demoralizing defeat for the opposition. Why are you trying to lend credibility to this farce. In a competitive election, you don’t know who is going to win. If one of the candidate parties, the EPRDF gets to count, what difference does it make if they award themselves 99,6% or 50,1% of the vote. Let me tell you sir, it is your kind of useless analysis that makes Meles hold Ethiopian in contempt. Meles is exposing these fake politicians who would happyly let him count the vote as long as they are given 25-30% of the vote. How disgusting. I for one am enjoying these psychological drama of himuliation.

  7. Anonymous on

    I believe that what Prof. Mesay hypothesized themselves as well as the other two that I will be noting below are not mutually exclusive and therefore some of or all together may explain what happened on Sunday.
    Yes, by pushing all opposition to armed straggle, labeling such straggle as terrorist movement, and designating itself as key East Africa ally of the West in fighting terrorism, it might have wanted to engage the opposition in TPLFs strength and at the same time scramble aid money from the West as a reward.
    On the other hand, the opposition is completely in disarray with bitter divisions and apparently irreconcilable vision and goals (Colonial fighters vs those who want to reverse gains of nationalities), as Melese himself described them “Fire and straw”. Even the many oppositions that fall between these two extreme positions do believe that their purpose and strategies are the best that cannot be compromised. Rather than declining, the number of opposition seems to grow further.

    All these would naturally affect peoples’ attitudes at the grassroots level. Needless to mention that the major employer in Ethiopia is the government. It is the government that is “solely” responsible for the supply of all infrastructure, roads, power, telecommunications, water, educational institutions, and health institutions among others. It is the government that owns the land, commands the army, runs the police and security forces and appoint the judges.
    As most of the opposition that objected participation in this year election correctly predicted the Ethiopian people very well knew that TPLF would not allow the opposition to win. The public therefore, was aware that which ever region or Kebele elected the opposition, it would pay the price for nothing. The price could be, being denied of everything from employment to infrastructure. As a result, the people might have not participated in the election or might have in fact elected TPLF (EPRDF) to eschew the revenge. Therefore, as much as the election could have been reneged, EPRDF might have secured the win given the circumstances.
    Regarding what Professor says about “Woyanne regime has to be recognized as a legitimate winner by the international community.”, I do not see any problem. In as much as TPLF is willing to police in the interest of the West, TPLF will be fine and the Ethiopian public knows that too. If the West, I think that is what we mean by the international community, wants an alternative force, can we name any opposition which is mature, stable, and reliable which can accommodate the opinions of other oppositions or the interests of Ethiopia in diversity better than TPLF? I have a problem of thinking any opposition with that quality and for the West Woyne is a better choice. I do not forget that the West is not primarily interested in Democracy. They claim to stand for democracy but they insist for democracy only when they think that will advance their interests.
    Therefore, it is up to the opposition (armed or not) to examine itself and do for the better. Study their difference, work together to hammer out those areas on which they can work together, show the public and the West that they are a viable, stable, accommodating and strong force that can be relied upon.

  8. Surafel on

    This is a wonderful analysis by Dr. Mesay, as always to the point and prescient. I’m sure he has addressed it in his previous numerous articles, but what is lacking here is the role the opposition played towards its own emollition and total victory of Meles. I know most hate to admit it, but the opposition really and truly lost this time around, maybe not by the fictional figure of 99.66% TPLF victory, but lose it did. The so called opposition leaders have been drumming up this self fulfilling prophecy for over a year now, that the ruling regime is preparing to rig this election in its favor, that the opposition is not allowed to organize and mobilize its grassroots and supporters, and Meles is using his entire police and security apparatus to intimidate, beat up and even kill the opposition and supporters, which he did.

    The problem for the opposition now is, knowing all they knew, why participate in a fake and rigged election, that TPLF has been plotting for the last five years? What gave the opposition the certainty that people will just go out and support them no matter what and replay 2005/2006 all over again? Was it the unconvincing alliance of convenience so called MEDREK or was it the resoluteness of its players like Gizachew Shiferaw, who in a single month was able spew contradictory opinions about his party ANDINET and its role in MEDREK? Gizachew was apologizing for KINIJIT in Tigray, claiming there were some undesirable social elements in 2005 that provoked the good people of Tigray. Remember, these are the same elements that were purported to be ‘Dereja Adari’ by the TPLF cadres, the same people who came out in droves after the stolen election to sacrifice their lives and limbs for the cause of democracy and Kinijit, like Shibre Desalegn. And in the mean time, Gizachew was busy in Awassa, minimizing the role of ANDINET in Mederk, literally saying that ANDINET really does not believe in MEDREK in the long run, but since it is the only game in town this time around, he has to work within that frame work. Now, with allies like this, who needs an enemy? Besides, all the players are known currency from 2005. Some like Merera and Beyene have chosen to keep quiet and join the rubberstamp parliament, and others have shown their true colors since. There was nothing inspiring about the organization or the individuals within it and that’s why they were ignored by the population at large.

    The thing is the opposition has been warned and forearmed about the consequences of jumping into an election without a set of safeguards. Either through ignorance or sheer cowardice, they decided not to extricate any concessions from the ruling party regarding their own safety and that of their supporters in the period preceding the election. They knew they are not allowed to mobilize their supporters in Ethiopia, instead of challenging that, they came to North America to convince us to support them and call our families in Ethiopia to vote for them. Why, Gizachew did not even bother to demand for the release of his party’s Chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa, as a price of participation in a rigged election.

    With Respect,


  9. Assta B. Gettu on

    Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi)—The Father of Lies and the symbol of Ugliness

    The ugliness of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) and his family has tarnished the beauty of Ethiopia since 1991 when he came to power and enslaved the Ethiopians for almost twenty years, and his land slide victory on May 23, 2010 is the quintessence of that ugliness always visible on his face, in his heart, in his leadership, and in the words that come out of his mouth full of lies, deceit, treachery, and dishonesty, the weapons of Hitler and Mussolini.

    Most people are not, and I am with them, bothered by the external and offensive look of a person, but they are deeply troubled by the internal ugliness of that person; however, Meles is externally and internally ugly, and he is not qualified to lead Ethiopia despite the May 23, 2010 fake election.

    The result of the May 23 election, more than anything else, more than the blood Meles shed on May 7, 2005, more than the jailing of Birtukan Mideksa with other Ethiopian politicians, and more than the theft he has committed so far, exposes Meles Seitanawi as one of the ugliest and the most deceptive person ever existed on this planet earth of ours, and, like an unfortunate mother who has given birth to a deformed baby, Ethiopia is to bear the disgrace for producing a physically and spiritually deformed Meles, ugly to our eyes to look upon, to live under his leadership, and ugly to our ears to hear the everyday lies he fabricates in front of world leaders, the media and the Ethiopian people.

    The ጫት (a stimulant leaf) he consumes may not defile him, but the lies that come out of his mouth or heart hurt him and the Ethiopian people, his subjects. Jesus has rightly said so: “What goes into a person’s mouth doesn’t make him unclean. It is what comes out of his mouth that makes a person unclean.” (Matthew 15:11)

    ወተት ጠ ጅ እንቁላል ሥጋ የደሮ ወጥ – all these Ethiopian delicious food – have been going freely into Meles’ mouth, and non of them are offensive either to him or to the Ethiopian people, but the most disgusting things are the lies that come out of his mouth or heart. He told us long time ago that he would retire after his term is over, and now he is ready to govern Ethiopia for another five years. Therefore, the lies that come out of his mouth make him the filthiest person in the whole world. So, who wants to be governed by a filthy, unclean, and dirty person for five more years except the most indulgent people of Ethiopia?

    Once there was a king in Ethiopia who went to church every Sunday morning to hear one of the debteras sing. This particular debtera had the sweetest voice, but there was a problem with this especial debtera; he had the ugliest face that the king would not like to see his face. Therefore, when the king came to church, this debtera had to cover his face and sing for the king.

    Even though this debtera had a bad-looking face, he had a special gift from God; he had the sweetest voice that the king enjoyed every Sunday morning, but what do we enjoy out of Meles Seitanawi, his good looking face, his voice, or his leadership? There is nothing we can enjoy either from looking at his face or hearing his voice or watching him lead 80 million Ethiopians in the right direction, but he has one quality the west always enjoys, and that quality of his is telling a lie, telling a lie to the west, telling a lie to his people, and telling a lie, perhaps, to his own wife, Jezebel (Azeb). He lied to the west by telling them that there is a new terrorist threat in the Horn of Africa; he lied to the Ethiopian people that there will be economic prosperity in Ethiopia, but what they get is endless poverty, and he lied to his wife that he does not have a jala (another woman), but how come Azeb one day called him “ሸርሙጣ” (adulterous) if the only woman he has had is Jezebel (Azeb) only?

    He is a toy made in China for the west to play with, but we know almost everything made in China has a defect, so is with Meles full of defect, and because of the defect he suffers from the beginning, he got an abnormal win during the election – 99.6% of the electoral votes. This kind of win is not normal; it is rather abnormal, defective, and goitrous.

    He won the election by giving to every Ethiopian a party membership card ahead of the election, and any person who holds this card is obliged to vote for the ruling party; otherwise he would not get the benefits the government gives to his members; he would not buy any thing from the government, and he would not sell anything to the government.

    The card he distributed to every Ethiopian before the election to vote for him is like the mark of the beast in Revelation 13:17. Those who do not have the mark of the beast cannot buy or sell any thing. In the same way, those Ethiopians who do not have the card that shows they are members of the ruling party are suspected as criminals and get rounded up to go to jail. It is this type of evil scheme that gave Meles Seitanawi another five more years, but he will not be able to finish those five years in peace.

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