Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Carrie Manning

Second Advisor

Michael Herb

Third Advisor

Jelena Subotic

Fourth Advisor

Mohammed Ali


After the fall of the military regime (the Dergue) in Ethiopia, that had ruled for seventeen years, the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) coalition and some former liberation fronts took control of the state and the systemic political transformation of the country. The impact they made on the state stability, political and economic questions however, invite further investigation. Considering the historical preludes, understanding today’s political landscape and lingering political and economic questions, this dissertation examines an institutional solution introduced by EPRDF led government in Ethiopia, i.e. Ethnic Federalism. The post-1991 politics and EPRDF’s coalition however, are highly dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) with a political base of roughly six percent of the total population. Nonetheless, the coalition, while challenged by fractured coalitions of political opposition and intra-party struggles, remains stable and in control. Hence, the dissertation provides a broader analysis on how the EPRDF coalition survives amid such challenges and remains in hold of political power while the overarching majority opposing its domination of the political landscape. As such, I focus on whether the federal arrangement, introduced as institutional solution to address grievances of diverse groups created mechanisms that enabled the regime’s political survival. In doing so, through diverse methodologies such as the use of comparative historical analysis and process tracing, elite interviews, case studies and use of secondary sources, I argue that Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism has effectively served the incumbent elites by providing the platform and mechanisms that ensured success of authoritarian survival. Overall, this dissertation in its first part discusses the continuity of culture of elite interaction that served as the foundation to survivalist politics in the country. Secondly, through careful investigation of the federal setting, the dissertation concludes that such federal arrangement is designed with the survivalist agenda in mind. As such, through patron-client relations, use of institutional arrangements that targeted group right promotion agenda in the political as well as economic schemes, the coalition navigated the political landscape quite skillfully thereby guaranteeing its survival for well over two decades and half.

INDEX WORDS: Ethnic Federalism, Authoritarian Survival, Political Culture, Neo-Patrimonialism, Clientelism, Democratization, Institutional Designs, Elite Strategies