Ethiopia faces rocky path to landmark elections

Friday, July 12, 2019

Subject

Political outlook ahead of 2020 elections.

Significance

The June 22 assassinations of Amhara region’s president and the nation’s military chief of staff sent shockwaves through Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's reform drive since 2018 has taken some significant steps towards liberalisation but has also provided opportunities for populist politicians to mobilise on the basis of polarising narratives. The June attacks brought these threats into stark relief and raises difficult questions about the next phase of the reform project, particularly elections scheduled for May 2020.

Impacts

  • The political crisis will interfere with proposed economic reforms, notably partial privatisation of key state-owned enterprises.
  • Preoccupation with domestic crises may limit Abiy’s attention to regional peace efforts, in which he has until now had a central role.
  • Increasing political mobilisation along pan-Ethiopian versus local identity lines threatens to undermine centrist, moderate politics.
  • Frustrations will grow over what many see as slow progress, particularly in terms of job growth.
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