By EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – President Barack Obama diverged from top aides and most outside observers here Monday by declaring twice that he thinks Ethiopia’s government was “democratically elected.”
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s party knocked out the last remaining opposition member of the parliament in the June elections, giving it, purportedly, 100 percent of the vote — a figure that American and other international officials have repeatedly condemned as proof the elections were neither fair nor representative.
Standing tensely at his joint press conference with the prime minister at the Jubilee Palace, Obama said “I don’t bite my tongue so much when it comes to these issues.” He ran through a list of areas of planned cooperation that Ethiopia is seeking, including economic investment, geo-thermal energy development, security and counterterrorism.
“Everything I’ve mentioned,” Obama noted, “also depends on good governance.”
But as he did, Obama differed from his top aides, who have expressed impatience with Ethiopia and its elections. By contrast, Obama expressed some understanding for Ethiopia’s travails: “It’s been relatively recently that the constitution was formed and the elections put forward a democratically elected government,” he said.
That’s not what national security adviser Susan Rice said she thinks.
At the White House the day before the president left for Africa, Rice was asked specifically if she considered the Ethiopian prime minister to be “democratically elected.” She said that the purported 100 percent support that Hailemariam supposedly won suggests “some concern for the integrity of the electoral process — at least if not in the outcomes, then in some of the mechanisms that supported the process, the freedom for the opposition to campaign.”
Pressed to clarify whether she thought that made the prime minister a democratically elected leader, Rice smirked and pointed again to the election results: “100 percent.” … Read more on POLITICO