Ethiopia’s election Sunday appears to have delivered the predictable result: re-electing the ruling of Meles Zenawi.
Human Rights Watch aptly described the election as political theater: “Behind an orderly facade, the government pressured, intimidated and threatened Ethiopian voters. Whatever the results, the most salient feature of this election was the months of repression preceding it.”
European election monitors were “encouraged” by the relative calm and lack of violence surrounding the country’s national elections, which in 2005 sparked much violence, especially by the government.
So once again, an African government benefits by lowered expectations. Opposition leaders in Ethiopia, to be sure, are calling for a re-vote, refusing the accept the official results and alleging gross unfairness. But Meles Zenawi isn’t accountable to any Ethiopians, but only certain foreign governments, especially the U.S. who counts Ethiopia as its most important military ally in its war against Muslim fundamentalists in Somalia and the Horn of Africa generally.
Zenawi is a wily character, the Mubarak of East Africa. His alliance with U.S. military power is tactically shrewd and surely has extended his tenure as defacto dictator of one of Africa’s most important, and talent-rich, countries. Because of his strategic position, Zenawi gets essentially a free pass from the West on all manner of issues deemed internal to his country, from repressing ethnic minorities to selling off valuable farm land to foreigners and to muzzling legitimate dissent.
For now, the theater that is Ethiopian politics is not quite on summer vacation.