Mizan Law Review

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Challenges of Ethnic Representation in Ethiopia and the Need for Reform

Beza Dessalegn


Although the Ethiopian federal dispensation legitimizes political participation based on ethnic identity, the arrangement, both through design and political practice, has led to the skewed representation of ethnic groups. The article examines these challenges and argues that in addition to the existing electoral system, difficulties pertaining to the holding of free and fair elections, ethnic voting, the role of political parties and majoritarian decision-making procedures have severely undermined the effective political participation of ethnic communities. Moreover, the manner in which electoral constituencies are formed largely benefit the politically and numerically dominant ethnic group thereby undermining the representation of ethnic minorities. Yet, in some cases, notwithstanding the existence of ethnic groups with numerical ascendancy within an electoral constituency, the political practice ensures that a ‘favored’ ethnic group, despite being a numerical minority, is made the political majority. In the veil of these obstacles, it is contended that a mere change in the electoral system alone, without due consideration to the aforementioned factors, cannot bring a full-fledged solution to the underlying problems the political system is facing.  

Key terms

Ethnic representation · Ethno-federalism · Electoral constituencies ·
Ethnic minorities · Ethiopia
AJOL African Journals Online