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When Meles Zenawi, the national and ruling party leader for 21 years, died in August 2012, most observers predicted that Ethiopia would be thrown into an uncertain transition and put in great danger by destructive internal power struggles and external pressure. As the months went by, none of these things happened. Instead, the world witnessed a peaceful succession, and a calm status quo has been maintained under the new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Numerous analyses of political developments in post-Meles Ethiopia have expressed amazement at this tranquility, particularly in the context of past state collapse and civil wars in neighboring states in the Horn of Africa region. Two questions present themselves. First, what are the reasons for the apparently smooth changeover? And second, will the stability prove long lasting—or just an intermezzo before turmoil erupts?