Abiy Ahmed, the head of the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO), has been named the new prime minister of Ethiopia and its ruling EPRDF coalition. Abiy’s election was confirmed Wednesday after he received 108 votes from Ethiopia’s ruling council of 180 seats.
Forty-five of them come from the OPDO, which has never seen an ethnic Oromo politician elected to the Prime Minister’s office, while 45 also come from the historically powerful Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The remainder also are split evenly between the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM).
Abiy was considered among the front-runners for the position after the former prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned suddenly in February. His resignation touched off a new state of emergency in Ethiopia, where political unrest – particularly among the Oromo and Amhara – has continued unabated since land disputes heightened longstanding tensions in 2015.
Fresh protests earlier this week led to the reported re-arrest of key journalists and opposition leaders such as Eskander Nega, underscoring the challenges that the new prime minister faces. Those arrests were condemned by the Ethiopian Human Rights Project for violating the country’s promise to create a more democratic climate.
“The new prime minister should lift the state of emergency, release all remaining political prisoners, including those recently rearrested, and begin inclusive dialogue with opposition political parties and civil society,” said the Freedom House NGO in response to the news. “It is vital that he begin the process of amending or repealing draconian laws that stifle peaceful dissent in Ethiopia.”
Image: Government of Ethiopia