State and politics
Ethiopia is formally a democracy with multi-party
systems, but in practice has functioned as a one-party state
governed by the revolutionary democratic front of
the Ethiopian people.
According to the 1994 Constitution, Ethiopia is an
ethnically based federation of nine states with regional
autonomy. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of ET and its meanings of Ethiopia. Self-government allows the right to withdraw from
the federation. The constitution provides for a federal
parliament with two chambers: the Representative Council
with a maximum of 550 directly elected members with
five-year terms, and the Federal Council, which
after the 2015 election has 153 members elected by the state
Jointly, the Chambers elect the President of the Federal
Republic every six years. The president has the most
ceremonial duties and can be re-elected at most once. The
Council of Representatives elects a prime minister, who has
the principal power, and takes a position on the government
members he appoints.
Ethiopia's leading party is the Ethiopian People's
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EFRDF), composed of a
number of ethnically-based organizations with the Tigrean
Liberation Movement Tigrean People's Liberation Front
as the Leading Party. When it took power in May 1991, it
presented a "national contract" which promised, among other
things, self-determination for Ethiopia's diverse ethnic
groups and granted full independence to the province of
Eritrea, which came into force after a local vote in 1993.
EFRDF leader Meles Zenawi was elected chairman of a
two-year transitional regime, after which general elections
to a constituent assembly were held in 1994. Meanwhile,
however, strong contradictions had arisen within the EFRDF.
Following armed clashes in 1991 between EFRDF troops and
forces from Oromo's liberation front , the latter
government left in connection with the 1992 regional
elections in which the EFRDF and allied parties received 90
percent of the vote.
Political dissent and others threatening the regime's
power position have been suppressed in various ways.
Electoral boycotts and party fragmentation within the
opposition gave the EFRDF overwhelming dominance over
Parliament after the 1995 and 2000 elections. This meant
that the regime in many Ethiopians' eyes did not appear
Ahead of the 2005 elections, two major opposition
alliances were formed, which received strong support,
especially in the larger cities, and claimed that they had
actually won the election but were deprived of the victory
by cheating. Demonstrations and protest actions led to
severe riots, which were fought off with deadly shootings
and mass arrests. When the EFRDF's position of power was
seriously threatened for the first time, the regime's
repression was threatened, for example by changes in the law
in the late 00s, which severely limited the possibility of
In the 2010 election, the EFRDF again stood virtually
without opposition and together with allied parties were
given all but two mandates. In August 2012, Meles departed
Zenawi, who has led the country since 1991, and was replaced
by Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. In the 2015
elections, the EFRDF received 500 out of 547 seats and the
others went to the government alliance support parties. The
opposition accused the regime of harassing its opponents and
was supported by Amnesty International, which reported
In the same year, violent protests against the regime
broke out among the Oromo and Amhara people groups, which
cost hundreds of people their lives. An emergency permit was
introduced in October 2016 and again in February 2018. In
the same month, Hailemariam Desalegn chose to submit his
resignation application. He remained as prime minister and
chairman of the EFRDF until April when Abiy Ahmed was
appointed as his successor on both posts.
The newly appointed head of government immediately began
to undertake major reforms; he signed a peace treaty with
Eritrea (see Eritrea), removed the stamp of terror from
several rebel movements and allowed its representatives to
return from exile and made peace with Ogaden's national
liberation front (see Ogaden). The new government presented
in October 2018 was significantly smaller than the previous
ones and half of the ministers were women. In the same
month, Sahle-Work Zewde (born 1950) became the country's
first female head of state.
Abiy has also promised that the 2020 elections will be
free and fair. A leader of the opposition was appointed in
November 2018 as head of the electoral authority.
The legal order in Ethiopia has its origins in Roman law
but is now codified according to continental European
pattern. In addition to the Supreme Court in Addis Ababa,
there are provincial and district courts. The most important
codifications are the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the
Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Act. The death
penalty is punished for some serious crimes.
Under the Constitution, Ethiopia is democratic, but the
democratic traditions and institutions are weak and the
country's authorities limit the fundamental rights of
freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of
In a July 2013 report, the human rights organization
Human Rights Watch criticized Ethiopian police for
systematic torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the
country's largest detention center, Maekelawi in Addis
Ababa. Several opposition politicians, regime-critical
journalists and organizers of protest actions are held
captive on loose grounds, and several arrests stem from a
recently adopted anti-terror law (2009) that has resulted in
severely limited freedom of assembly in the country.
In recent years, the country's human rights groups have
been forced to cut down on operations, and a number of
organizations have closed completely. Several of Ethiopia's
human rights activists have fled because of threats, and for
those organizations that still operate in the area of
human rights, the climate is threatening. Equally bad is
the existence of independent media as more journalists have
fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world during the
last decade. The Constitution itself meets high demands for
freedom of expression and press, but in the Press Freedom
Index that Reporters Without Borders compiled for 2013,
Ethiopia is ranked 137th out of a total of 179 countries,
which is a deterioration compared to the previous year.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Council, EHRCO, and Amnesty
International report on civil and political rights
violations in the form of arbitrary detention and torture.
The death penalty is allowed by law but is rarely enforced.
Violations of economic, social and cultural rights occur,
as well as discrimination on grounds of gender and political
affiliation. Although prohibited by law, forced labor is
often used as a form of punishment.
Violence, sexual violence and discrimination against
women and children is a widespread problem in the country.
Genital mutilation is prohibited by law, but three out of
four women in Ethiopia are estimated to have been exposed to
it. Women's access to the judicial system is limited,
especially regarding marital disputes, abuse or rape. Other
serious offenses against women and even children are forced
labor, prostitution and human trafficking. Homosexuality is
prohibited by law and can lead to imprisonment.
Heads of State from 1270
||Yagba Siyon's five sons
||Amde Siyon (II)
||Ya'iqob (2nd time)
||Iyasu the Great
||Iyasu II (the little one)
||"Era of princes"
||Tekle Giyorgis (II)
||Haile Sellassie I
||military council (dergen)
||Mengistu Haile Mariam (President)
||Meles Zenawi (president, interim)
||Negaso Gidada (President)
||Girma Wolde-Giorgis (President)
||Mulatu Teshome (President)
||Sahle-Work Zewde (President)