Africa Asia Europe North America South America Oceania
You are here: Home > Africa > Eritrea

Eritrea Politics

State and politics

Eritrea under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki is in practice a one-party state and one of the world's hardest dictatorships. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how ER can stand for Eritrea.

Political System of Eritrea

GOVERNMENT

After the 1993 referendum, there was uncertainty about the constitution until 1997, when a new constitution was adopted by the National Assembly. However, this has never come into force in practice and the country is ruled by the authoritarian President Isaias Afwerki and his party the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

According to the constitution, the legislative power is to be held by a parliament with 150 members. Elections are to be held every four years, but some of them have not yet taken place, which is why the PFDJ wholly dominated parliament of the 1990s has still not been replaced.

The President shall be appointed by Parliament and may be elected for a maximum of two five-year terms. As head of state, the president has great powers of authority and appoints, among others, members of the Supreme Court, the heads of the National Audit Office and the central bank, as well as all ministers. He is also commander in chief. The President should be formally deprived of his powers if two-thirds of the National Assembly so decides.

For the provincial administration, Eritrea is divided into six regions.

Policy

Promised parliamentary elections have repeatedly been postponed in the future. In contrast, regional elections were held in 1997 and 2004, but only members of the PFDJ were allowed to run for office. Since independence came into force, Isaias Afwerki has been President. He was previously active in the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), which after independence was transformed into PFDJ.

Relations with Ethiopia were good after independence and up to 1997. A first sign of conflict was that Eritrea that year introduced its own currency (nakfa), which in Ethiopian view was assigned an unreasonably high exchange rate. The currency conflict caused serious disruptions to Ethiopian trade via Eritrean ports.

In 1998, an open war broke out after mutual accusations of border violations. The war caused both great suffering and immense losses in human life on both sides, and when it ended in 2000 after extensive international mediation efforts, neither party had won anything. Both countries pledged to respect the boundary line proposed by a UN-led commission, but when the Commission, in its final report in 2003, essentially stood on Eritrea's side, Ethiopia refused to accept the ruling. Since then, hostilities between the two countries have repeatedly been threateningly close to culminating in a new war. A breakthrough took place in 2018, when the country's leaders signed a peace deal and reestablished diplomatic relations.

Vague promises of independence on political pluralism have not been fulfilled. Fifteen high-ranking members of the PFDJ were jailed in 2001 when, in an open letter, they criticized the state leadership for failing democratic reforms. The same fate has hit many other regime critics and journalists (including Swedish citizen Dawit Isaak) who helped to give the opposition a vote. Opposition magazines were closed, and Eritrea has since been one of the few countries in the world that completely lacks free media.

Judiciary

The legal system in Eritrea is under construction. It basically consists of laws issued by the ruling party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), formerly the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). There are also elements of Islamic law and local customary law. The death penalty remains in the legislation but is de facto abolished in 1989.

Human Rights

According to the UNHCR, in January 2010, over 200,000 Eritreans fled Eritrea, one of Africa's most undemocratic and corrupt states. Torture, arbitrary detention and serious restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion are still (2015) routine in the country. Elections have not been held since Eritrea gained independence in 1993 and political parties are not allowed. President Isaias Afewerki and his ruling party People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have been in total power for 20 years. The Eritrean parliament has completely ceased to operate, and no opposition or independent pressure is allowed in the country.

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and press, media freedom is extremely limited, and the Reporters Without Borders (RUG) organization places Eritrea last in the 2015 ranking of the media climate in the world's countries. The Eritrean government has on several occasions arrested journalists or forced them into military service. In 2001, all privately owned newspapers were closed due to their reporting on the political opposition.

Gender discrimination is illegal in Eritrea, but the woman's position is still severely neglected. According to data, violence against women is common and domestic violence is usually not prosecuted. Together with UNICEF, the Eritrean government has cooperated against female genital mutilation with some positive results, but it remains a widespread phenomenon. Homosexuality is prohibited and can be punishable by imprisonment.

Eritrea has neither signed nor ratified the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Interns are routinely tortured and many prisoners die under the difficult conditions. The death penalty can be punished for several crimes, for example crimes against the country's security. Furthermore, it is common for people to be deprived of liberty and deprived of their jobs and homes because of their origin, religious affiliation or political conviction.

The Constitution allows freedom of movement within the country and opportunities to emigrate, but in reality this right is severely limited. There is also information on impunity for human rights violations carried out by police or military personnel.

It is illegal in Eritrea to practice any religion other than the four registered religions: Eritrean Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, Islam or Lutheran Protestantism. Arrests of believers of all ages within unregistered religions occur.

Other Countries in Africa

Politics eZine Copyright 1999 - 2020 All Rights Reserved