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Ethiopian PM calls for multiparty democracy

July 22, 2018

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said his country must seek a path to greater democracy through strong institutions that "respect the rule of law." Ethiopia has been governed by the same coalition for 27 years.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M.W. Hailu

The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, said on Sunday that his country faced "no option" but to pursue multiparty democracy.

Abiy's chief of staff tweeted the remarks during a meeting the prime minister held with leaders of more than 50 national, regional and political parties, some from overseas, who were demanding reforms to Ethiopia's election law.

Read more: Germany welcomes developments on Horn of Africa

"Given our current politics, there is no option except pursuing a multiparty democracy supported by strong institutions that respect human rights and rule of law." Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega wrote on Twitter.

Although Ethiopia allows competing parties, the country has been ruled by a single coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, since it rose to power in 1991. 

Abiy's favorable comment on multiparty democracy in Ethiopia follows the government's decision to lift a ban on opposition groups that were considered terrorist groups.

These efforts to strengthen the country's democracy could make the 2020 elections much more competitive and could mean a profound change in Africa's second most populous nation.

Read more: Ethiopia: East Africa's new economic power

A reformist prime minister

Since taking office in April, the 42-year-old prime minister has carried out profound reforms, such as releasing political prisoners, loosening state control of the economy and leading a historic effort to make peace with Eritrea, Ethiopia's northern neighbor.

Read more: Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea will promote democracy

The dramatic changes have not come without resistance. Last month, at a large political rally in the nation's capital, a grenade attack killed two people and wounded more than 150. The blast occurred shortly after Prime Abiy had addressed the crowd.

The ruling coalition has vowed to push on with Abiy's reform agenda and blamed "desperate anti-peace elements" for the attack.

jcg/tj (AP, Reuters)

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