Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in Africa. The most well-known of all Ethiopian emperors, Haile Selassie, ruled the country from 1930 until 1974, with the exception of the period during which Ethiopia was under military occupation by the armed forces of Benito Mussolini’s Italy, from 1936–1941. Selassie was overthrown in 1974 by the Provisional Military Council, known as the Derg, which proclaimed Ethiopia a socialist state. The Derg was in turn ousted by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 1991.
In 1994, a Constituent Assembly adopted a new draft constitution approved in a referendum and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was proclaimed in 1995. Meles Zenawi became the first Prime Minister of the new Federal Democratic Republic in 1995, and after his death in August 2012, the current Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took office.
With more than 80 ethnic communities, ethnicity is the underlying organizing principle of Ethiopia’s federal parliamentary democracy. Article one of the 1996 Ethiopian Constitution states that Ethiopia is a federal nation.
In 1996 the fourteen historical provinces of Ethiopia were dissolved and nine autonomous regions and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa) created to replace them. Six of these regions are inhabited almost entirely by a single ethnic group each, with the three remaining regions more ethnically diverse.
The Ethiopian Parliament consists of the House of Federation (the upper house), and the House of Peoples’ Representatives (the lower house), whose members in both cases are elected either by state councils or popular elections. The highest executive authority in Ethiopia resides with the Prime Minister.
The federal authorities deal with issues of national concern, including economic and social development, national standards and policy criteria for health and education, defense, federal police, foreign policy, foreign commerce, and immigration.