WITH Nigeria’s ruling party losing power and Ghana’s opposition also dreaming of dethroning the incumbents, in eastern Africa long-time ruling parties are holding on tightly, with the margin of victory the only uncertainty in regional powerhouses Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Ethiopia’s government declared Sunday’s parliamentary elections a success with more than 90% of the electorate casting their ballots, as opposition politicians said their supporters were harassed and intimidated.
“The turnout was huge,” Communications Minister Redwan Hussein said in a phone interview on Monday from the capital, Addis Ababa. “The process was calm and very peaceful.”
Almost 37 million people were registered to vote for lawmakers in the Horn of Africa nation’s 547-seat parliament. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won all but one seat in the legislature in the last vote in 2010 and a majority in the latest election is a “foregone conclusion,” said Dereje Feyissa Dori, Africa research director at the International Law and Policy Institute in Norway.
Opposition election observers were harassed and voters intimidated in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region, said Merera Gudina, a leader from the Medrek coalition, the ruling party’s main challenger. “Much of it is a robbery,” he said in an interview in Ambo, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa.
There were only isolated problems, including a Medrek observer getting injured in the West Shewa Zone of Oromia, said Redwan. “There may been some hiccups, but if you look at the country situation overall there is no pattern,” he said.
The electoral board may announce preliminary results on Monday, Arkebe Oqubay, a special adviser to the prime minister, said by mobile-phone text message.
Elswehere Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CMM or Party of Revolution) party will elect its presidential candidate in August, two months before the East African nation goes to the polls to choose a new leader, Daily News reported.
Registrations begin June 3 and those seeking the party’s nomination need the endorsement of 450 sponsors from 15 regions of mainland Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar, the Dar es Salaam-based newspaper cited CCM spokesman Nape Nnauye as saying.
A full list of nominees will be announced July 12.
President Jakaya Kikwete is set to step down in October, when he will have completed two terms in office. CCM has been uninterrupted in power since independence in 1961 and is Africa’s longest reigning political party, followed by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
It is widely expected to retain its tenacious grip on power.