Why Do Dictators Bother To Hold Fake Elections?

election-2015The flawlessly organised election robbery that took place in Ethiopia on May 24 is now concluded with the unpopular ruling EPRDF party wining by a landslide. Over 37 million registered voters out of the 96 million people reportedly cast their ballots in the said parliamentary and regional election. Based on preliminary results that was released by the country’s electoral board, the highly unpopular ruling EPRDF and its affiliate parties so far won all of the 442 declared seats, leaving the opposition empty-handed.

In what seems to be a rather stage-managed election process, the fate of the remaining 105 seats will be determined according to plan. After all, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will roll in his grave if the margin of victory for the incumbent party lower than that of the 2010, which was 99.6 percent. Ordinary Ethiopians rather embarrassed than surprised by the election results. They know the ruling EPRDF, which is mainly controlled by one minority ethnic group that make up only 6% of the population, is extremely unpopular, facing multiple armed rebellion. There is no way, unless otherwise rigged, the incumbent wins in a landslide all the time.

International election observers, like the European Union and the United States, which monitored the rigged 2005 and 2010 elections have declined to observe this time. The African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) led by former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, is therefore, the only international monitor that observed the election. AUEOM members were only 59 in number comprised of 23 African countries. Practically and logistically, it was highly impossible for this tiny group of observers to monitor the more than 45,000 polling stations through out the country. At the end of the day, AUEOM managed to only visit 356 polling stations. The rest of the polling stations were left to observers from the ruling EPRDF party. It was like leaving the fox to guard the hen house.

The African Union Election Observation Mission finally gave its verdict on the overall voting process even though it only monitored less than 1% of the total polling stations in the country. It said the election was “calm, peaceful and credible”. However, the mission also said in the 21 percent of the 356 polling stations it visited, station officers violated rules by refusing to demonstrate empty ballot boxes before the official start of the elections. It also noted that a few voting centers had opened ahead of time and many ruling party allies openly urging voters to vote for them inside the polling stations. Moreover, the dark canvas ballot boxes in many stations were not sufficiently transparent to determine whether the boxes are stuffed or not. For that, the mission omitted the two critical adjectives, “free and fair,” out of its final assessment of the 2015 Ethiopian national election. In other words, it acknowledges that the election was not “Free” and “Fair” even by African standard.

The opposition rather dismissed the AU Observer mission’s assertion of “credible” claiming the body had failed to report on multiple violations in several constituencies. On the eve of the vote, security personnel had launched a “witch hunt” by arresting opposition observers stationed in most of the remote polling stations. Ballot boxes as well had been stolen from most of the opposition constituencies outside of the capital. Dr. Merara Gudina, deputy chairperson of the opposition Medrek coalition alleges the whole process was a farce. “In my constituency, we do not even know what happened to the over 80 percent of the ballot boxes right after the polls closed, ” he said. “It was an organised robbery.”

To the surprise of many, EPRDF and its affiliates even secured a landslide victory in Addis Ababa, an opposition stronghold, by winning all the 23 constituencies. Since the 2005 deadly election, the ruling party creates an unfair playing field for the opposition. The opposition have been hindered from campaigning through arrests, harassment, intimidation and unequal access to funding and media. That has left the country without any viable counter voice to the ruling party and resulted in highly controlled political and electoral participation.

A North Korea style 100% win is, therefore, what the ruling EPRDF expects this time. By doing so, it is sending the message that in Ethiopia, democracy is not about people’s rule but about ruling people. That message is meant to embarrass the highly criticized Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, who recently praised Ethiopia as a ‘democracy’.

The best explanation that we have observed is that, beginning at least in the 20th Century and arguably before then, the idea of consent of the governed has become inextricably tied to national legitimacy to such an extent that even dictators find themselves having to establish at least the illusion that their rule is supported by the people. Because of this, even dictators feel the need to hold “elections” in an effort to claim to the rest of the world that they have the same legitimacy as, say, the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Consent of the governed, then, has replaced the Divine Right Of Kings as the determining factor when it comes to legitimacy. While the rest of the world rightly recognizes that these elections are fraudulent, the fact that dictators feel the need to hold elections implies that they recognize the fact that, to the world as a whole, only rulers who are elected by the people are truly legitimate.

For most Ethiopians, the chance for bringing change and democracy to the country through the ballot box is now a distant dream. While the final result is slated to be announced on June 22nd, Ethiopians have no option except to deal with it.

7 Responses to Why Do Dictators Bother To Hold Fake Elections?

  1. TN May 29, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I must say you have forgotten to mention the source and namr of the author. Give credit where credit is due

  2. Bariisoo May 29, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    What is to be done as criminality is done by those dictators with wild beast instincts and what is to be done is undone by those who claim to be the voice of the weak and the neglected.Does this scenario of criminality and shamelesnes should continue in the name of government?does this fake game of mafia gangs should continue in the name of peace,developement and democracy. when theres is no peace they tell us there is peace by the tip of the gun,when there is no development and growth they tell us 11% economic growth rate.when they robb the people voice, they tell us there is fair and peacful election.what a darkness and crooked ness hoover over that cursed people and country with cursed so called wild beast instinct leaders.It is shame and criminality to use education and power against the people and nation. African leaders are robbotic toys that are remotley controlled and commanded by signals from America and Europe.Therefore Americans and other civilized nation of the world should respond to such barabaric actions by Mafia gangs that controlled the state power machinery to terrorize the mass.If they are fighting against terrorism they should have to start with those mafia gangs organized at state level. TPLF IS mafia gang organized at state level to terrorize the people. 2015 sham election is a licence to TPLF Mafia gangs to continue terrorization.A terrorist government with terroized people and terrorizing army have no legitmacy to lead the the terrorized country by robbing and stealing the voice of the people.

  3. Ifaa May 29, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    TPLF is not only from 6% of Ethiopian population. TPLF is the missioner of Western countries especially organized to destroy Ethiopia and Ethiopian people. Writing about TPLF stupidity is meaningless. They are doing the same things since they came on power by the help of cold war. (America and England helped to remove USSR from Ethiopia and when Ethiopian people be came weak with their leader Mangistu H/Mariam and army they put on power and advise to do what they are doing).
    I think it is easy to win this gangs if all interesting groups came together and fight them as they are fighting innocent people.

  4. samiY May 29, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    I agree with you 100% ‘I think it is easy to win this gangs if all interesting groups came together and fight them as they are fighting innocent people”.

    • whitestar May 30, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

      The problem is not removing this minority dictatorship but what will replace them after they are gone there is lack of trust between ethnic groups so every one is playing the waiting game. There is one group who cry about utopian unity as they are the legal guardian of all other groups and they think it is their god given right to rule this country and every one else. Cooperation can only be possible if they drop this demand for unity and forget about this silly dream of great utopia in the image of amhara and accept that every ethnic group have a right to choose.

  5. Barii May 30, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    TPLF thugs and their collaborators are not cheating or confusing the people. They are cheating themselves. It’s also a known fact that they are absolutely shameless. We have fundamental reason to use the term TPLF thugs. Some people were shocked with the gangster behavior of Ato Abay Tsehaye. But if you have information about other TPLF leaders, you will be certain that he is by far the most moderate among the TPLF thugs. There are worse lots in the TPLF camp. They have no respect for the people, particularly for the Oromos. And they also despise Amaras.

    The issue is this: What should be done to get ride of TPLF gangsters, who don’t have any behavior of government but certainly act like gangsters that terrorize and lord over people?

  6. Mario May 30, 2015 at 1:33 am #

    The writer of this article asked, “Why Do Dictators Bother To Hold Fake Elections?” Good question.

    My answer is this: Most bother to hold “fake elections”, because they think talking about democracy and holding election is the best way of ruling a country and people by pure deception.

    A few of them don’t even bother to hold “fake election”. They rule over a country and people by the barrel of the gun. Here is a good example: When asked by a foreign journalist if there is a plan to hold election, Dictator Essayas Afeworki of Eritrea answered by asking, “What election?” I believe, Essays is at least honest to his gut feeling. If he is meant to be there, why bother about holding “fake election” and waste the money of tax paying Eritreans?

    To the embarrassment of themselves and freedom-loving peoples of the world, woyanes/TPLF declared they won the election 100% this time. In 2010, it was declared they won 99.6%. Mind you, this is the same unpopular regime that lost (won 0%) the entire Addis Ababa electorate in 2005 election. By what miracle it won Addis Ababa 100% this time? I am sure most readers know the pretty oblivious answer to this question. May I call it the only and the first victory in kind in the history of election?

    To sum up, the defeat of the opposition by 100% is an insult to the Ethiopian people and a complete disrespect woyanes/TPLF harbor to democracy and freedom-loving peoples of the region and the world. Democracy is about having differing opinions on issues of national importance. And, that is why the electoral system in democratic countries is participatory and competitive.

    We now know well why woyanes/TPLF love “fake elections” and hate participatory and competitive election. On our part, it is about time to hate what woyanes/TPLF love and love what they hate.

    As samiY put it above, the only way we can win over woyanes/TPLF is “if we all come together and fight them collectively as they are fighting innocent people”. If we didn’t get this simple fact in the last 25 years, I really doubt we will get it in the coming another 25 years.

    May God/Allah give us the courage and wisdom to do the right thing!!!

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