Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front

Not to be confused with Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front.
Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
Chairman Hailemariam Desalegn
Deputy Chairman Demeke Mekonnen
Founded May 1988
Headquarters Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Newspaper New Vision
Youth wing EPRDF Youth League
Women's wing EPRDF Women's League
Membership  (2011) 6,000,000
Ideology Current:
Revolutionary democracy
Until 1991:
Political position Far-left
Colors Red and Yellow
Seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives
500 / 547

Cited from party website

The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝቦች አብዮታዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ግንባር?; abbreviated EPRDF) is the ruling political coalition in Ethiopia. The front consists of four political parties; the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).


Before it became the government in 1991, the EPRDF was a rebel group battling the Derg, a military regime led by Mengistu Haile Mariam that was effectively in power from 1974 until it was ousted by the EPRDF in 1991. During this period, the Derg was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of opponents without trial.[1]

The EPRDF was formed by the union of the TPLF and the Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement (EPDM) in early 1989; they were later joined by the OPDO (the Oromo members of the TPLF, EPLF, and EPDM) and the Ethiopian Democratic Officers’ Revolutionary Movement (a small body of Derg officers captured by TPLF, most notably at Shire in February 1989, which was later disbanded after the establishment of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia).[2]

In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Mengistu government, the EPRDF gained support from the United States. Michael Johns, an Africa expert with the Heritage Foundation, wrote in 1991 that "there are some modestly encouraging signs that the front intends to abandon Mengistu's autocratic practices."[3] Observers have had concerns since then about the EPRDF's treatment of the opposition, particularly the validity of the 2005 and 2010 elections.

The EPRDF won 472 of the 527 seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives in the 2000 elections. The results of the 2005 elections were not accepted by all parties. The disagreements led to a prolonged crisis and public unrest which resulted in the death of 193 Ethiopians, including civilians and police officers. The ruling front claimed to have won 499 of the 527 seats. The opposition, which claimed widespread fraud and intimidation, declared that the two major opposition coalitions together would form a majority coalition. Though one of the major opposition parties (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) carried Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa by a landslide, the opposition did not have the strength of the EPRDF in rural Ethiopia.

The EPRDF's two main opponents in the 2005 elections were the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, both of which are also coalitions of multiple opposition parties. The opposition made spectacular gains in the election, which caught all observers and the parties off guard. Early results from the polls showed the opposition on course to sweep to power with a substantial majority. However, the National Election Board, appointed by the Prime Minister, stopped the vote tabulation process for several days. There was a break in the chain of control of ballot boxes. When the counting resumed, and the ruling coalition declared it had won, the opposition cried foul and contested the results.


The EPRDF is an alliance of four parties: the OPDO, which is based in the Oromia Region; the ANDM based in the Amhara Region; the SEPDF based in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region; and the TPLF based in the Tigray Region. The EPRDF is led by a Council as well as an Executive Committee, whose members are selected every three years by a congress of the party. The four member parties have the same organizational structure. Government and party structures are closely intertwined.[4] This interweaving reaches down to the local level, as described in the Human Rights Watch report of 10 March 2010:

Today, kebele officials wield a massive amount of power over their constituents in a myriad ways in a system where the line between state and ruling party is firmly entrenched. Kebele officials determine eligibility for food assistance, recommend referrals to secondary health care and schools and provide access to state-distributed resources like seeds, fertilizers, and other essential agricultural inputs. Minor claims and disputes at the kebele level are adjudicated by social courts based in these Kebeles. Local prisons and in some places local-level militia are used to execute the laws and political decisions of the ruling party.[5]

The other five regions of Ethiopia are governed by parties which were either created or heavily influenced by the EPRDF.[6] One of the earliest was the Afar People's Democratic Organization in the Afar Region, which subsequently merged with other Afar political groups to create the Afar National Democratic Party.[7]

In the Somali Region, the Somali People's Democratic Party was founded in 1998 after relations with the Ogaden National Liberation Front soured.[8] In the Harari Region there is the Harari National League, while in the Gambela there is the Gambela People's Democratic Movement. In Benishangul-Gumuz Region, the Benishangul-Gumuz People's Democratic Unity Front predominates.[9]



Revolutionary democracy

Revolutionary democracy replaced Marxism–Leninism as the EPRDF's official ideology in the early 1990s, not because the front had lost their belief in communism, but rather because of the international situation (the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991).[10] The main message of Revolutionary Democracy, similar to that found in Marxist–Leninist thought, is that a vanguard party should rule because it represents the people and has "supposedly superior knowledge of the nature of social development conferred on them by the EPRDF ideology."[11] Similar to Marxism–Leninism, the EPRDF prefers to categorize society into classes such as the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the comprador bourgeoisie and considers its main adversary to be imperialism, that is free market capitalist states.[11] The Ethiopian opposition are referred to by the EPRDF as enemies, and they are called "chauvinists", "narrow nationalists" and/or "secessionists".[11]

The peasantry are considered the main class in Ethiopia, since they form a majority of the population, and they are considered the pillar of Revolutionary Democracy.[12] Upon seizing power, the front was suspicious of the petite bourgeoisie class, believing that they were naturally inclined to oppose the front's policies.[13] Despite this, the front believed it could win over the petite bourgeoisie through economic incentives and successful policy.[13] Importantly, if members of the petite bourgeoisie class oppose the EPRDF, the front will "empty their 'belly and pocket'".[14] The urban proletariat are in contrast naturally inclined towards the EPRDF, and the EPRDF seeks to recruit members of these class so as to strengthen the front's organizational links with the trade unions.[14] The EPRDF asserts that the "local investor", that is, the capitalist, will naturally be hostile towards the front and its policies, and the front should therefore try to persuade this class to become neutral.[14] Religious organizations are deemed reactionary by the EPRDF.[15]

Relation to liberalism

The EPRDF opposes liberal democracy, and liberalism in general.[16] Despite this, Revolutionary Democracy can be considered a mixture of communist and liberal thought.[16] The front views liberal democracy and free market capitalism as decadent, and has a "romantic attachment" to the beliefs of Vladimir Lenin, who condemned liberal democracy as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (literally the dictatorship of the upper class) while supporting Lenin's assertion of the need for a vanguard party which practices democratic centralism.[16] It considers liberal democracy to be "ill-fit and unsustainable", but ironically much of the front's economic policies are based on the tacit acknowledgement of the need of some liberalism in the economic field.[16]

Relation to communism

With the majority of EPRDF's top leaders being former members of the Marxist–Leninist League of Tigray, a Hoxhaist organization led by among others Meles Zenawi, Marxist ideology still plays a prominent role in party discourse, with some even claiming that the front is hiding their ideology.[17] Theodore M. Vestal claims that the front based its ideology on Marxist–Leninist revisionism, believing it explains the regime's authoritarian nature.[18] Of the communists traits in Revolutionary Democracy, most of them have been borrowed from Maoism, an ideology conceived by Chinese leader Mao Zedong.[16]


After taking power, this party has been allegedly involved in human rights violations and the imprisonment of opposition party members. In 2005, one university student was killed among dozens of protesters mainly in the capital, and hundreds were arrested in protests over disputed election results.[19] More recently the only opposition movement that came close to gaining any power in parliament, the Kinijit coalition, was prosecuted, and its leaders were imprisoned in 2005.[20]


  1. de Waal, Alex (1997). Famine Crimes: Politics & the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa. Oxford: James Currey. ISBN 0-85255-810-4.
  2. Sarah Vaughan, "Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia" Archived August 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (University of Edinburgh: Ph.D. Thesis, 2003), p. 168
  3. "Does Democracy Have a Chance?" by Michael Johns, The World and I magazine, August 1991 (entered in The Congressional Record, May 6, 1992).
  4. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Parteien in Äthiopien: Zwischen ethnischer Orientierung und Programmausrichtung
  5. "One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure", Human Rights Watch report, released 10 March 2010
  6. Paulos Chanie: "Clientelism and Ethiopia's post-1991 decentralisation", Journal of Modern African Studies 45/3 (2007)
  7. Yasin Mohammed Yasin, "Political history of the Afar in Ethiopia and Eritrea", African Affairs, in: Africa Spectrum 42 (2008), p. 39-65
  8. Tobias Hagmann, Mohamud H. Khalif: "State and Politics in Ethiopia's Somali region since 1991", Bildhaan: the International Journal of Somali Studies, 6 (2006), pp. 25-49. (This is a translation of Hagmann and Khalif, "La Région Somali d’Éthiopie: Entre Intégration, Indépendance et Irrédentisme," Politique Africaine 99, October (2005), pp. 43–62)
  9. Lovise Aalen, "Ethnic Federalism and Self Determination for Nationalities in a Semi-Authoritarian State: The Case of Ethiopia", International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 13 (2006), pp. 243-261
  10. Vestal 1999, pp. 63–64.
  11. 1 2 3 Vesta 1999, p. 64.
  12. Vesta 1999, p. 73.
  13. 1 2 Vesta 1999, p. 74.
  14. 1 2 3 Vesta 1999, p. 75.
  15. Vesta 1999, p. 77.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Melakedingel, Nolawi (10 May 2013). "The Oddities of 'Revolutionary Democracy'". Addis Standard. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  17. Vesta 1999, pp. 79–80 & 93.
  18. Vesta 1999, p. 116.
  20. ETHIOPIA: Recent arrests of opposition leaders and police killings of 46 demonstrators (Amnesty International Website)


  • Vesal, Theodore (1999). Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State (1st ed.). Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0275966100. 
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