Ethiopian Opposition Says It May Boycott Elections – By Jason McLure (

October 10th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

An alliance of Ethiopian opposition parties may boycott elections scheduled for May 2010 unless the government releases imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and others they say are political prisoners. (more…)

An alliance of Ethiopian opposition parties may boycott elections scheduled for May 2010 unless the government releases imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and others they say are political prisoners.

“Birtukan is the spearhead of these political prisoners,” Gizachew Shiferaw, a member of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party and vice-chairman of the eight-party Forum for Democratic Dialogue opposition alliance, said today in Addis Ababa. “Unless we take some sort of remedy toward these political prisoners, it will be difficult to look at the upcoming elections as free and fair.”

Birtukan, 35, was given a life sentence last December after the government accused her violating an agreement that freed her in 2007.

Members of the alliance called on Western countries to pressure Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front by threatening to withhold foreign aid. Speaking at a press conference, they demanded negotiations on issues such as the establishment of an independent electoral board, harassment of opposition candidates and supporters and the presence of international election observers.

“We appeal to the international community that what we want is a fair game,” said Merara Gudina, chairman of the FDD.

‘Invited to Dialogue’

Bereket Simon, the government’s main spokesman, said in a mobile phone interview: “Yesterday, we invited them to a dialogue in the presence of the British and German embassies. We invited them to join negotiations. They declined. The party who walks away from the negotiating table doesn’t have a moral right to accuse us of closing political space.”

Government officials including Prime Minister Meles have repeatedly said that the jailing of Birtukan is a legal matter unrelated to politics and have defended the country’s electoral record.

“The intent of some of these individuals is not to contest the elections in a serious manner,” Meles said at a Sept. 16 press conference. “The intent of these individuals is to try and discredit the election process from day one.”

Birtukan was first jailed in November 2005 for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order after the country’s disputed 2005 elections led to street demonstrations in which 193 people were killed. She was released in 2007 under a pardon agreement brokered by the U.S. and a group of Ethiopian elders.

Opposition candidates won just three of 3.6 million seats in local and by-elections in 2008, after major parties boycotted citing harassment and intimidation, according to a tally by the U.S. State Department.

Ethiopia received $2.4 billion in official foreign aid in 2007, the last year for which data are available, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Meles’ EPRDF has ruled Ethiopia since ousting the country’s former military regime in 1991.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg on

  1. ETHIOPIAN from Boston
    | #1

    I do feel (and infact have felt since then)that all Ethiopian political prisioners should be freed but Mr. Meles had responded with a joke that there are no political prisioners in the country but violent inciter and criminals. To day, if Mr. Meles release ALL POLITICAL PRISIONERS AND CLOSE ALL PRISION FACILITIES, What guarantee do we have for free and fair election in Ethiopia ????? Any one who has an idea? – please post it for further discussion. Thanks

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    Well done FDD!That is the right step in the right direction.

  3. Sami
    | #3

    That is a good staff there. With out the release of Birtukan Mideksa and other political prisoners, with out an independent election board, with out free access to media and with out Meles stop harassing the opposition members, there is no free election in Ethiopia.

    Meles said “The intent of some of these individuals is not to contest the elections in a serious manner,” Meles said at a Sept. 16 press conference. “The intent of these individuals is to try and discredit the election process from day one.”

    Well, what Meles want is that the opposition parties to just give him legitimacy when he continues to be an evil and cruel dictator in the whole world. Can any one ask in which democratic country one guy assumes all the power for almost 20 years? Can any one find a democratic country in the world in which there is only one state run Television station for 80 million people? Can any one find a democratic country where there is only one state own phone and internet service provider? All these and more are reality in Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi is not just your typical dictator. He is genocidal. He runs these fake elections every five years or so as prerequisite to get money from the westerns and to attend the G8/G20 meetings and he wants the opposition parties to just give him legitimacy when he runs his evil display.

  4. aha!
    | #4

    Loyalist opposition parties and/or Medrek an alter ego to TPLF/eprdf are using one of the eight points of the pre-conditions for elections as as an ultimatum for participating in 2010 elections, with carry over of 7/8 of the burden. It is a stand neverthelss, than soliciting for political space and yet shy of coalescing with AEUP’s demand.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    Correction: They did not say they will, they said they may boycott election 2010.

  6. Free Bertukan
    | #6

    The release of Bertukan and other political prisoners will:
    1. save face for the regime which claims to be democratic although doing so this late in the election process may fire back at the govenment.
    2. save face for Bertkan’s own party which was near colapsing due internal power struggle.
    3. create an aura of peace, relief and stablity in a country burdened with tribal and political tension created by ethno-centric revolutionary democracy which is trying to be tamed by the British and American beaurocratic accomplices.
    4. save face with those diplomats who are working against the interest of the interest of the Ethiopian people.
    5. would please the Ethiopian people and their friends that there is sanity and fareness in the land.
    6. would rebound the spirit of freedom and encourage the people to go the polls to exercise their rights. However, no one, except the government and the political themselves can garantee the fairness of the election. Observers may watch and witness the fairness of the process, if they are not cheated.
    7. would please the Swedish government which seems to have been betrayed by Ethiopian regime in imprisoning an opposition leader for committing a ‘crime’ in their soil.
    8. would elate her mother and daughter and other members of Bertukan’s family.
    9. would please you and me and others such as the team who stand for justice.

    I commend FDD on their courage and determination. I hope the regime would release them sooner for its own political consumption.

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    This is one more good initiative.The earlier preconditions set by the opposition as one of those important initiatives define the integrity and existence of Medrek.Although the demand for the release of Bertukan constitutes the major plank of the raft of those conditions,securing that demand alone does not guarantee the triumph of the democratic forces.
    Conversely,to give in to the regime’s impositions and restrictions including the acceptance of Bertukan’s detention for the sake of ostensibly pushing forward the democratic movement is to commit a fatal mistake.
    Medrek should take bolder initiatives to secure the release of Bertukan while at the same fighting for the fulfilment of its other demands.The two moves are conjoined like Siamese twins.

  8. ETHIOPIAN from Boston
    | #8

    COMMENTATOR NO. 1 WAS ASKING WHAT GURANTEE THE ETHIOPIAN OPPOSITION GROUP HAVE A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION EVEN MELES RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISIONERS AND CLOSED PRISION FACILITIES TO DAY, NOT TOMORROW ??? By putting this question I do not mean that prisioners should not be released. Commentators 2-6 had points worthy of reading but I did not the answer in a “NO” guarantee or ” Yes” with some explanation)

    PLEASE NOTE: On this website, professor Tewodros Kiros at Harvard university demanded the release of political prisioners. I have asked him what assurance the opposition group have for for a FREE & FAIR election even if they were realeased to day. HIS ANSWER WAS “THERE IS NO GUARANTEE” The reason Why I then ask repeatedly, is therefore, to learn from diverse people with thir diverse opinion and NOT BECAUSE I DID NOT KNEW THE ANSWER MYSELF.

  9. ETHIOPIAN from Boston
    | #9


    Commentator’s comment (of no.7) was not posted when I imposed question No.7 which you assigned my comment as No.8. How come? Had I seen comment N0.7, I would not have posted my comment that tou assigned as No.8. Thank you commentator no.7 (Anonymous) since your answer is satisfying than the rest combined.

  10. ABBY saying
    | #10

    Free Leader Birtukan Mideksa and other all political prisoners without any pre-conditions immediately. Birtukan Mideksa is the truth Ethiopian political leader we have seen in the present time. Leader Birtukan is in prison and suffering in jail because she is dedicating to make deference for all Ethiopians do not have the voice. To all other political parties, I advice you must and should think about it not to participate in the 2010 Ethiopian election. What I meant is boycott the election. No one is a 2nd citizen in Ethiopia, everyone is creating equal. All political parties You need to stand together for the truth democracy (say it in loud Freedom, Freedom and Freedom). God bless Ethiopia

  11. mateos
    | #11

    I do not understand why they call themselves opposition in first place. How could they call themselves opposition when their lively hood is robbed by a bunch of aiga jungle thugs, when their country is divided into so many pieces by non Ethiopian people- – Legesse/Abebe/Meles, his prime boss Bereket Simon, and their advisors and cousins Eritrean traitors who found a perfect opportunity in Addis and environs. There is no doubt some weyane members could have been good for the Ethiopian people however their record shows otherwise. Just witness what the weyane mafia family and their bosses Eritrean traitors did to this beautiful nation and people. They have robbed what is Ethiopian to the bone and what may be left is nothing but a skeletons in the box. Wether there is election or not Ethiopia looks as of now just like the ugly, midget, begger, sophisticated slave, Blair/Bush pet Meles Zenawi and his boss Bereket Simon. The power of prayers might be much better than believing the aiga jungle lords!

  12. Robele Ababya
    | #12

    It is unfair to subordinate the release of all political prisoners to assurance for free and fair election – which is something to be earrned through struggle.

    Medrek did a good thing to indicate its intention to boycott election 2010 unless Birtukan and all political prisoners are released. Respect for basic human rights must come first.

  13. Free Bertukan
    | #13

    Thank you, every one for your concern. Bertukan’s case is neither criminal nor political. It is a moral issue. She spoke the truth. Truth hurts but also heals. Her argument is bth morality not legality of the case. You can be legally or politically correct but morally wrong. By morality I mean how one’s attitude and act should be for the good of humanity. You can outsmart some people sometime but not all people all the time. Moreover, you cannot outsmart God. I do not know Bertukan but from what I heard on the TV on the day they were released and my from remote contribution to the elders, I think she told the truth. She did not want to lie to her conscience like many others.

    Many people are scared of the ones that tell the naked truth. TPLF are also scared of the truth just as anyone else. Her release will mark the triumph of truth. She broke the rule of political pragmatism and street smarting. It may be constued as naivite or ignorance. In so doing she was bold and determined unlike other politician whos manoeuver their way and prefer convinience to commitment. The young lady seems to have some moral values, primarily as a professional judge and a genuine Ethiopian. She has demonstrated to the Ethiopian people her character and sacrifice which are indespensable to leadership.

    My answer to the question, what garantee do we have for free and fair election, is that there is no garantee whatsoever. Even if TPLF/EPRDF gives garantee, it may have hard time implementing it. The process needs cooperation of all the people, parties and the government. Free Bertukan!

  14. Anonymous
    | #14

    It is like waiting for miracules to happen to have democratically ellected person in the office in ethiopia or else in the whole africa except in Bottswana and south africa period

  15. JIGSA
    | #15

    what ever you call it the ethiopian people know only that the country is under one ethnic tigrai people liberation front since is one party based system who is terrorizing the ethiopian people since 1991.those barberic tigrai liberation front is controlled the country’s business aS WELL AS GOVERNMENTAL sectors all by themselves what a the excpense of the ethiopian people the tigrai liberation front is dividing the people based on language.and tribe so that they can stay in power forever.these shameful mafia group and their leader the butcher of addis ababa melesse zenawi are not willing to give the ethiopian people a chance to elect their choice.The ethiopian people has every right to elect their government with out any interfirance of tigrai liberation front.the ethiopian people has a right right now to elect their leader since the tigrai liberation front is an illegal mafia group in ethiopia.god bless ethiopia victory to the ethiopian people!

  16. ETHIOPIAN from Boston
    | #16

    All opposition group should boycot the election of 2010 not by a threat to boycot but with a promiss to boycot. What other painful experience are they going to learn than Negasso Gidadda that he experienced in Qelem, district Dembi Dollo, Wolega, Ethiopia ?? (read the detai of his experience at

  17. Free Bertukan
    | #17

    I agree with you Mr. ETHIOPIAN from Boston. That is the only way you the opposition can be heard. Once they are in prison like Bertukan, they are silent victims! Not many will have the empathy and the moral aptitude to advocate for members of Medrek, if they do not stand for her now! As Prof. Mesfin said, “Bertukan imprisonment means Ethiopia is in prison”.

  18. Dawit
    | #18

    It is futile to participate in an election where the winner is predetermined. Matter of fact, by partaking in the election, the opposition is legitimizing woyane’s claim that the election will be free and fair.
    Therefore, supporting Ginbot 7 is the only viable option at this point.

    VIVA G-7

  19. alemu
    | #19

    no decocray uner weyane. boycot. viva G7

  20. aklilu
    | #20

    we will boycat the election

  21. ahmed
    | #21

    we should boycot the election, the only way weyane will get out of office is if we stab them.

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