'Do not cross the red line': the 2010 general elections, dissent and political mobilization in urban Ethiopia

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Only five years after it lost a national election in Addis Ababa, the overwhelming victory of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in the 2010 general elections marked the defeat of the opposition parties and the return to a dominant-party state. The capacity of the EPRDF to mobilize people in towns and the capital city triggered debates on the nature of consent in urban Ethiopia. This article contributes to this debate in two ways. First, it maps the specific institutions and strategies the ruling party has used to close political space in the capital since 2005, explaining how it has tied political mobilization to the delivery of services to those at the bottom of urban society. Second, it examines interactions between the ruling party and young people involved in government development programmes and youth organizations, demonstrating the subtle ways dissent is expressed even as EPRDF power is reproduced. In this regard, the victory of the ruling party in 2010 does not bear witness to the neutralization of dissent. Rather, it reveals a reshaping of the way the government has governed and controlled the city since the late 1990s.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-430
Number of pages22
JournalAfrican Affairs
Issue number452
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2014