Ethiopians headed to the polls Monday for a controversial election being carried out amid an ongoing conflict and a raging humanitarian crisis in the country’s northern Tigray region.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is facing his first real test at the ballot in what is Ethiopia’s first multi-party election in 16 years, albeit one riven with conflict, jailed opposition figures and parts of the country unable to vote.
Abiy said he expected the poll to be peaceful, tweeting ahead of the vote that it would be Ethiopia’s “first attempt at free and fair elections.”
But some Ethiopians and political analysts disagreed with the prime minister.
An Ethiopian, Gual Adwa, wrote on Twitter: “This is actually the worst attempt at free and fair elections in Ethiopian history. Election observers won’t even entertain it & most opposition is in jail..not to mention a whole region can’t vote bc it’s a war zone.”
A veteran journalist, Martin Plaut, described the June 21 poll as “a dubious process.”
“Correction: some Ethiopians will cast their vote. The election has been canceled in several regions - including Tigray. It’s such a dubious process that most international observers have refused to monitor it,” Plaut tweeted.
The atmosphere was peaceful at one Addis Ababa polling station visited by CNN on Monday morning. Several Ethiopians waiting patiently in line said they were voting because they hoped it would help move the country in a more democratic direction.