Ethiopian Constituent Assembly election, 1994
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Elections for a Constituent Assembly were held in Ethiopia on 5 June 1994 in order to form a body to draw up a new constitution. They were the first elections after the overthrow of the Mengistu regime at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991, and the first ever multi-party elections in the country; previous elections had either been non-partisan or one-party. The results saw the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front and its allies win 463 of the 544 seats. Voter turnout was 87.5%.
The Assembly finished drafting the new constitution in December, and it went into effect in August 1995.
Mengistu Haile Mariam was the leader of Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991, during the military dictatorship or the Derg. The Ethiopian Civil War in 1991 ended with the overthrow of the Mengistu Regime. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a rebel group during the Derg, was transformed into the Transitional Government of Ethiopia in May 1991. With help, and money, given by the United States State Department with expectations of "democratic" behavior, the EPRDF was able to choose members of the TGE and how it would be run. Meles Zenawi became Head of State and Tamrat Layne Head of Government.
After gaining power, the anti-Mengistu alliance started removing weaker members of the party from power, creating a new authoritarian system. Under this authoritarian system, rules were based on ethnicity and anyone with opposing ideas were silenced with basic human rights denied by the seemingly unreachable leaders of the TGE.
The EPRDF held a National Conference from 1–5 July[when?] during which they adopted a National Charter. This was an interim constitution which established the Transitional Government. The Charter created the posts of President and Prime Minister, an 87-member Council of Representatives and a 17-member multi-ethnic Council of Ministers. The Council of Representatives was to elect the president and oversee transition to a permanent government. The Constituent Assembly was expectation to draw up a new constitution for Ethiopia.
Although there enthusiasm about the end of the dictatorship, there was also some scepticism about some of the new partie; the democratic credentials of the EPRDF were questioned due to relations with parties that were associated with the past regime such as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP), the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (Meisone), and the Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF).
Some groups were prohibited from becoming political parties if they were created to advance their political objectives by force of arms, and/or to foment conflict and war by preaching hatred and animosity among nations, nationalities and peoples on the basis of differences of race or religion. These included the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) and the Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP).
For months before and after the election there were many reports of voters voting out of fear of change. Some voters feared a change in government would cause a famine. Despite the people's fears not being realised, it still affected the way they voted.
Groups affiliated with the EPRDF that won seats include the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), and the Hadiya People's Democratic Organisation (HPDO).
After the elections Negasso Gidada became President, whilst Meles Zenawi became Prime Minister. Layne was Deputy Prime Minister until his dismissal in 1996. The newly elected Constituent Assembly created the new Constitution of Ethiopia which went took effect on 21 August 1995. Despite the overthrow of the Derg, the party remained a virtual one-party state.
- Dieter Nohlen, Michael Krennerich & Bernhard Thibaut (1999) Elections in Africa: A data handbook, p381 ISBN 0-19-829645-2
- Kassahun Berhanu (1995) "Ethiopia Elects a Constituent Assembly", Review of African Political Economy Vol. 22.63, pp129–135
- James Currey (2011) Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers, p230
- Theodore M. Vestal (2011) "An Analysis of the New Constitution of Ethiopia and the Process of Its Adoption", Northeast African Studies
- Sandra Fullerton Joireman (1997) "Opposition Politics and Ethnicity in Ethiopia: We Will All Go down Together", The Journal of Modern African Studies Vol. 35.3, pp400–401
- Nohlen et al., p385
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