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News release

Ethiopians prefer federal to centralised government, but split over delineation, Afrobarometer survey reveals

16 Nov 2023 Ethiopia
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News release
Key findings
  • A majority (54%) of Ethiopians prefer a federal over a unitary system of government, viewing it as the best system to accommodate the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity. About four out of 10 (42%) see federalism as a system that leads to conflict and favour a shift to a unitary form of government (Figure 1).
  • Compared to the results of the previous Afrobarometer survey, in 2020, the proportion of people who favour the federal form of government declined by 7 percentage points, from 61% to 54%, while the corresponding share in support of a unitary government rose by 5 points (Figure 2).
  • If a federal system of government is maintained, Ethiopians are split as to what it should look like: About half (49%) say federalism should continue to be based on regions defined in accordance with nations, nationalities, and people’s identities, while the other half (48%) say the regions should be based on geography, not on where different nations and nationalities live (Figure 3). o Urban residents are more likely to favour a geographic basis (54% vs. 44%), while residents in rural areas, which tend to be less culturally and linguistically diverse, are more likely to prefer the current definition based on identify (51% vs. 47%). o At the country level, these views have not changed significantly since the 2020 survey (Figure 4).

A majority of Ethiopians still view federalism with independent regional governments as the best form of government for the country, although support for this view has declined, a new Afrobarometer survey shows.  

Citizens are evenly divided as to whether Ethiopia’s federalism should continue to be based  on regions defined in accordance with nations, nationalities, and peoples’ identities or  should change to a system based on the geographic features of the country. 

The fate of federalism has been a subject of intense debate for many years. Ethiopian politics essentially continues to be a battleground between federalist and unitarist political ideologies, with ongoing debates among politicians, scholars, and civil society representatives on whether the country should maintain the multinational federalism that has been in place since the federal Constitution was ratified in 1995, modify it, or shift to a unitary form of government.