October 5, 2018 / 1:38 PM / a year ago

Ethiopia's ruling coalition re-elects PM Abiy as chairman

HAWASSA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s ruling coalition on Friday extended the chairmanship of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, further anchoring his authority as he pushes through sweeping political and economic reforms.

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed addresses a news conference in his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kumera Gemechu/File Photo

Abiy, 42, took power in April after his predecessor resigned following three years of unrest. He will now lead the ruling EPRDF coalition until the next congress, which usually takes place every two to three years.

His re-election, by secret ballot at the end of the coalition’s three-day meeting, had been expected. He won 176 votes out of 177, according to a tally announced by Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye, who is also a member of the coalition. The congress also re-elected Demeke Mekonnen as Abiy’s deputy.

After the results were announced, delegates - many of them sporting scarves and shirts emblazoned with ruling party slogans - gave Abiy a round of applause.

Six months ago, the former army officer took the helm of the once Marxist-Leninist EPRDF at a moment of crisis for the coalition that had ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist since toppling a military regime and taking power in 1991.

The changes that he has presided over include making peace with arch-foe Eritrea, freeing political prisoners, pledging to open up the state-controlled economy and promising to overhaul the security services.

But there has also been a surge in violence along ethnic lines since he came to power.

At the conclusion of the congress on Friday, the coalition adopted a seven-point resolution that included pledges to safeguard reforms and strengthen multiparty democracy.

It said the right of citizens to settle in any region should be defended, in the wake of mob attacks on minorities that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in several provinces.

The resolution said questions over identity and regional borders “should be resolved peacefully”.

Congress spokesman Fekadu Tessema told a news conference that changes would also be made to government institutions.

“We have laid the groundwork that will enable the implementation of reforms in the justice, security and intelligence sectors,” he said.

Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Roche

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