European Union Election Observation Mission to Ethiopia 2010
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Ethiopia held its fourth elections to the House of People's Representatives (HPR) and State Councils on 23 May 2010. The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was present in Ethiopia from 14 April to 21 June 2010, following invitations from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). The EU EOM was led by Mr. Thijs Berman, Member of the European Parliament. The Mission deployed 170 observers from 25 European Union Member States, as well as, Norway, Switzerland and Canada to all the country's regions, to assess the electoral process against international and regional commitments for elections as well as the laws of Ethiopia. The EU EOM is independent in its findings and conclusions and adheres to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation commemorated at the United Nations in October 2005. On Election Day, EU EOM observers visited 815 polling stations in every region of Ethiopia to observe voting and counting.
The 23 May 2010 elections were held in a generally peaceful environment, as unanimously called for by all stakeholders. The relatively quiet election campaign by both the opposition and the incumbent, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), grew in intensity in the very last stages of the campaign. Although, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) largely managed the electoral process in an efficient and competent manner, its handling of the consolidation process was less praiseworthy. The electoral authorities failed to dispel the opposition parties' lack of trust in their independence. While several positive improvements were introduced since the 2005 elections, there were negative developments in the practical application of the legal and electoral framework. As a result, the electoral process fell short of international commitments for elections, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties. Insufficient efforts were taken to ensure a more equitable and representative electoral process.
The Ethiopian Constitution and legal framework provided an adequate basis for the conduct of genuine elections in line with international and regional commitments subscribed to by Ethiopia. The Constitution, Electoral Law and other election-related regulations protect political and civil rights and allow for genuine elections, as well as the freedoms of association, assembly, movement and expression. However, the practical implementation of some laws and regulations regarding elections deviated in certain cases from the principles underlying these commitments. The electoral process was therefore constrained, as was the full, non-discriminatory, enjoyment of fundamental rights.
The changes in the legal framework together with the fragmentation of the main opposition forces in the aftermath of the 2005 elections, as well as the imprisonment of leading opposition figures and the departure in exile of one opposition leader, resulted in a cumulative narrowing of the political space within the country. The ruling party's presence throughout the country was unrivalled by opposition parties, especially in rural areas which house up to 80% of the Ethiopian population.
The NEBE administered the elections in a competent and professional manner given its limited resources, overcoming significant technical challenges. However, some shortcomings were noted in the training of polling station staff and in the consistency and coherence of technical information received and aggregated by the electoral authority, such as complete polling station lists, which affected the overall transparency of the process. Insufficient measures were taken to increase the level of trust of some opposition parties in the impartiality and independence of the NEBE.