Political Rights Score: 5 *
Civil Liberties Score: 5 *
Freedom Status: Partly Free
Ethiopia received a downward trend arrow due to the narrowing of political space in advance of the 2010 elections, the government’s crackdown on the operations of nongovernmental organizations, and its passing of a draconian antiterrorism law.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government bolstered restrictions on political activity in 2009 as it prepared for federal and regional elections scheduled for 2010. Opposition party activists were arrested, and a new antiterrorism law gave the government broad authority to crack down on perceived opponents. Other legislation enacted during the year imposed strict controls on civil society organizations.
One of the few African countries to avoid decades of European colonization, Ethiopia ended a long tradition of monarchy in 1974, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a Marxist military coup. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled the country until a coalition of guerrilla groups led by forces from the northern Tigray region overthrew his brutal dictatorship in 1991. The main rebel group, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), formed a new regime, and its leader Meles Zenawi became interim president.
Under the EPRDF, democratic institutions and a new constitution were introduced. Most of the opposition boycotted elections held in 1995, claiming harassment of its supporters precluded a fair vote, and Meles became prime minister. He began a second five-year term after the 2000 elections, which the EPRDF also won easily. Opposition parties and some observers criticized the government’s conduct of the vote.
*Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.