Ethiopian Region Holds Local Elections in Defiance of Prime Minister


The Tigray election comes almost two months after the country was gripped by deadly protests following the killing of prominent singer Hachalu Hundessa, a champion of the Oromo ethnic group, the country’s largest, which has long complained of political and economic marginalization. (Mr. Abiy is also Oromo.) Hundreds of people were killed in the capital, Addis Ababa, and the neighboring Oromia region, while businesses, schools and factories were burned. Authorities also shut down the internet and arrested more than 9,000 people, according to the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Many of those detained were arrested without charges, Human Rights Watch said.

Among those arrested were journalists, activists and opposition figures, including Jawar Mohammed, a media tycoon who is Oromo and who has risen to become one of the prime minister’s chief critics.

Federal authorities have so far stayed out of Tigray’s election. Mr. Abiy said in a state television interview this week, “We are not going to lift our hands every time someone shouts asking to affirm their existence.”

But Mr. Abiy also warned regional officials that “they will not have legitimacy” if they don’t participate in the next national elections.

The government also took steps to limit media coverage of the Tigray elections. Authorities on Monday barred some local and foreign reporters from traveling to the region, confiscating their documents, laptops and phones at the airport.

Starting at midnight on the eve of the election, long lines of people — from hardened war veterans to young student activists — began lining up in Tigray for their chance to vote, voters and observers said in telephone interviews. Organizers marked the floors with chalk, so that voters could stand at a distance from one other. Health workers in white overalls sprayed voters with disinfectant. In many parts of the region, authorities said nearly 100 percent of registered voters had cast their ballot hours before polling stations closed.

Some 2.7 million voters were expected to vote in 2,672 polling stations across the region, though the turnout numbers have not yet been announced. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or the T.P.L.F., the once-dominant party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, was expected to win the majority of the 190 seats.



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