And Africa is a Country gives a good roundup of the issues at stake:
This year’s election comes at a crucial juncture for the Horn of Africa nation of 94 million people. Touting the country’s improved economic fortunes, the ruling party is all but certain to continue with its “winning” streak. To the party’s credit, once a country with extreme famine, poverty and underdevelopment and a subject of Bob Geldof’s live-aid concerts, under EPRDF’s rule Ethiopia has seen relative economic gains and improved access to basic education and basic health care in rural areas.
This is however an incomplete, not to mention a clichéd, picture of Ethiopia. Even if one acknowledges modest economic gains, the beneficiaries have not crossed the narrow circle of the well-connected upper business class and associates of the ruling party. Beneath the headlines about massive investment in infrastructure and mega hydroelectric dams financed by the government and rosy forecasts by multinational financial institutions lies a burgeoning and increasingly repressive police state.
That’s not all. Unemployment among urban youth hovers above 50 percent. In a country where 60 percent of the population is aged 30 and below, it is no wonder that the regime is intolerant of any form of dissent, imprisoning journalists and bloggers, including for comments on social media. One of the top ten worst jailers of journalists in the world, along with China, Iran and North Korea, Ethiopia has locked up, forced into exile, or cowed nearly all of the country’s independent journalists into silence using a sweeping anti-terrorism law widely being used to muzzle the press.
Ethiopia is one of the most fascinating countries on the continent. I have no doubt that the ruling party will dominate the elections. The question is not if, but how and under what circumstances the EPRDF wins.