In the past, there were no established political parties, although political factions existed on the basis of religion, ethnicity, regionalism, and common economic interests. In the 1970s, a number of illegal separatist groups became active militarily. They included the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF). Eventually, EPLF defeated the ELF in Eritrea.
Two civilian left-wing parties, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party and the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement, were crushed by the Dergue in 1976 and 1977, respectively. In 1979, the Dergue established the Commission for Organizing the Party of the Working People of Ethiopia (COPWE), in order to lay the groundwork for a Marxist-Leninist party along Soviet lines. The Worker's Party of Ethiopia (WPE) was established in 1984 as the sole legal political party. Its 11-man Politburo was headed by Mengistu.
The separatists successfully defeated Mengistu's forces and after Mengistu fled in May 1991, they established a transitional government under their coalition banner, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The TPLF is the most prominent member of the EPRDF, which also includes the Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (EPDM) and the Afar Democratic Union. The OLF is not part of the coalition. There are also numerous small, ethnic-based groups and several Islamic militant groups. Following 1994 elections to a transitional national assembly, 30 opposition groups—not including the OLF—formed the Coalition of Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAFPDE), and began pressing for electoral reform. New elections were held in 1995 for a newly created Federal Parliamentary Assembly (consisting of two chambers). The elections, despite being overseen by international observers, were boycotted by the opposition and were won by the EPRDF, which secured substantial majorities.
The main parties contesting the 14 May 2000 elections were: Afar Democratic Association, Afar Democratic Union, Amhar National Democratic Movement, Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Ethiopian Democratic Officers' Revolutionary Movement, Oromo People's Democratic Organization, and Tigre People's Liberation Front. There were approximately 58 national and regional parties, 29 of them belonging to the four-party coalition of the ruling EPRDF.