Ethiopians voted on Monday in a crucial test for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose ascension to office appeared to represent a break with decades of autocratic rule at the time, but who has subsequently fought war in Tigray and whose party has been accused of electoral fraud.
The parliamentary election, which was postponed from last year, is the centerpiece of Abiy's promised reform effort, and he has billed it as "the nation's first attempt at free and fair elections.
However, international worry over the election has grown, and opposition parties have accused Ethiopia's ruling party of harassment, manipulation, and threats of violence, all of which are reminiscent of past atrocities. Even though one opposition leader said he hoped the election will go down without a hitch, some important opposition groups are boycotting it, particularly in the country's most populous province.
Polls are closed in more than 100 of the country's 547 constituencies, either due to the ongoing violence in northern Tigray or logistical concerns elsewhere. In Tigray's 38 constituencies, no date has been established for voting. The remainder of the country will vote in September, and the next government will most likely not be formed until then.
Abiy, whose party is generally anticipated to retain power, is also facing mounting international condemnation over the battle in Tigray, which erupted partly as a result of the region's now-fugitive authorities objecting to Ethiopia postponing the election last year due of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Long queues of voters were spotted in several districts of Addis Ababa on Monday, while security was increased across Africa's second-most populous country. Military vehicles were stationed in strategic spots throughout the metropolis. Over 37 million Ethiopians are likely to vote, and one observer remarked the diverse field of contenders.
The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party's opposition candidate Berhanu Nega told reporters that his organization has recorded more than 200 incidents of its election monitors being "kicked out" of voting places or denied entrance. He expressed the hope that the problems "do not reflect the entire process."
Getnet Worku, the opposition ENAT party's secretary general, accused Prosperity Party members of campaigning inside polling booths, and stated five of his party's agents were imprisoned for several hours, calling it "an act of intimidation."