Paradoxes of electoral authoritarianism: the 2015 Ethiopian elections as hegemonic performance

Jon Abbink

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The 2015 elections in Ethiopia had a predictable outcome, showing an entrenched system of one-party dominance that self-referentially enacts the political order created by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since 1991. EPRDF spokespersons continued to defend the party’s hegemony as inevitable, grounded in a logic of technocratic authority and with reference to ‘stability’ and ‘development’. This paper describes the electoral process not in the light of democracy theory but of hegemonic governance theory. Elections seem to have lost relevance in Ethiopia as a means of political expression and are only important as a performance of hegemonic governance and as ‘global impression management’–showing state skills in securing a smooth electoral process as a major organisational feat in itself. Contradictions that the political process creates between the Ethiopian party-state and domestic constituencies, and between the attitudes/policies of certain donor countries, are downplayed or avoided, but problematic in the long run.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-323
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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