From the beginning of democratization in Ethiopia until present, the government has experienced viable democratic erosion simply by displaying a weak commitment to democratic rules of the game. Within the Ethiopian Constitution it explicitly states in chapter two, article 12, number two that “[citizens] may recall any one of their representatives whenever they lose confidence in him.” According to the Lust Article, “social capital facilitates citizens’ collective action, which should, in turn, have a host of political consequences as citizens band together to demand government accountability” (23). However, the case is the complete opposite in Ethiopia. During the proliferation of democratization after 1991, the electoral process was relatively fair and citizens were capable of holding their government accountable without fearing repercussion. However, the current political climate of Ethiopia does not allow for citizens to hold officials accountable due to the fact that citizens fear for their lives or possible imprisonment if they consider speaking out against the government. For example, a riot erupted November of 2015 due to historical grievances and wrongful use of lethal force as well as the lack of political space within parliament. These protestors were met with deadly force and detained. The catastrophic threat of political violence in the event that citizens decide to revolt or actually take action to hold their political leaders accountable is a key determinant that Ethiopia is experiencing democratic erosion. This government does not abide by its own constitution which allows citizens to hold political players accountable for their actions, therefore there has been a weak display of commitment to democratic rules of the game.
Within Ethiopia there is an overt readiness to curtail civil liberties, which is another key idea that alludes to the fact that this country is experiencing democratic erosion. Though elections are held, voting for a party opposing the dominant party could lead to abuse, death, or imprisonment. As questioned in the Fateful Alliances article, in order to determine if they are in fact curtailing civil liberties it is important to ask, “have they threatened to take legal or punitive action against critics in rival parties, civil societies, or the media” (24)? According to africanews.com, “leading Ethiopian opposition politician Bekele Gerba among a group of four persons was jailed for six-months by a federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa.” The fact that a country holds elections tends to present the idea that the country is upholding democratic standards. However, in the case of Ethiopia the elections are held merely to either paint a facade of democracy for international players in order to sustain aid or merely to get an idea of which oppositions should be reckoned with. The dominant party of Ethiopia does not only deny the legitimacy of the opponent, they jail them! The jailing of rival parties is a clear cut example of events that point to democratic erosion within this country. Another way in which Ethiopia curtails civil liberties is by censorship of the press. According to Freedom House, “the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn continues to use the country’s draconian antiterrorism law and other legal measures to silence critical journalists and bloggers, though pressure abated slightly following the landslide victory by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in May 2015 general elections.” The continuous use of laws to subjugate the masses by denying basic civil liberties that are the bread and butter of a true democracy these laws also highlight the fact that Ethiopia is undergoing immense democratic backsliding.
Another democratic dismemberment committed by the Ethiopian government is the toleration and encouragement of political violence. According to the Lust article, “initial democratic backsliding is expected to accelerate and lead to democratic breakdown and possibly violence” (39). The amount of political violence within this nation could be the effect of democratic erosion, rather than the cause. According to dw.com, “Ethiopia has experienced one of its worst population displacements due to violence in recent times.” Ethnic conflict ensues between Somalia and Ethiopia. Conflict that has led to the throwing of grenades, rape, women miscarrying due to unlawful evictions. Throughout this bloody border battle the Ethiopian government tolerates the slaying of citizens. The dw.com article notes that, “at the federal level, the government faces accusations ranging from not doing enough to turning a blind eye, to even abetting violence for political ends too.” Thus far the Ethiopian government has met criteria for three of four key symptoms of democratic erosion.
In closing, it is fair to conclude that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front took reign with intentions of democratization. On the contrary, over the course of 26 years the government has managed to become a symbol of authoritarian rule hiding behind the mask of democracy. Freedom house currently ranks Ethiopia as a not free 6.5 on the freedom scale, while in 1998 it was raked at a 4 which is partly free. In regards to this governments failure to uphold democratic rules, curtailment of civil liberties, and prompt support of political violence it is a paragon of textbook democratic erosion.