In a speech President Obama delivered in the presence of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, he twice referred to Ethiopia’s government as “democratically elected” despite the fact its parliament has no opposition members.
Desalegn leads the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of left-wing parties, and has been in office since August 2012. Last May, the EPRDF won all 546 seats in national elections. Prior to the election, the opposition held a grand total of one seat, which the EPRDF regained. Needless to say, Freedom House classifies Ethiopia as “unfree”:
In 2014 the Ethiopian government continued to suppress free speech and associational rights, shattering hopes for meaningful reform under Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Government harassment and arrest of prominent opposition and media members continued, including the April arrest of nine journalists who were charged under Ethiopia’s controversial antiterrorism law. In April and May, massive protests in Oromia Regional State broke out following the announcement of the planned expansion of Addis Ababa into Oromia. At least 17 people died after the military fired on unarmed protesters.
You know Obama has a tenuous grasp of things when even Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes don’t consider Ethiopia’s election to be democratic. But I don’t expect much of Obama. Let’s remember this is the same Obama who said about Iran’s 2013 “elections,” “I want to be clear: We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.”
Of course, Iran could only give Rouhani “a mandate” so long as the Ayatollah Khamenei and the Mullahs permited him to run. Iranians cannot freely choose their leaders and neither can Ethiopians. But in Obama’s universe, Ethiopia’s government is “democratically elected,” Iranians have given President Rouhani “a mandate to pursue a more moderate course” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is excoriated for deploying “divisive rhetoric” during Israel’s free and democratic election last March.
Even though Ethiopia and Iran jail their political opponents, Obama’s White House is moved only to criticize Netanyahu for undermining “values and democratic ideals” while alleging marginalization of Arab-Israelis at the polls without a single shred of evidence. For good measure, the Obama Administration indicated Netanyahu’s re-election results would prompt them to re-evaluate its Middle East policy. As if it hasn’t already done so.