Ethiopians have started voting in national and regional elections, the country's first since the death in 2012 of longtime leader Meles Zenawi.

More than 38 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in this East African nation of about 90 million people.

Hailemariam Desalegn, a former university professor turned politician, has been leading the country since the death of Meles, who built the ruling coalition into a powerful political organization while opposition groups complained of persecution. He is expected to remain in power.

Only one opposition lawmaker won a seat in Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament in the 2010 election, which watchdog groups said was marred by intimidation and the harassment of opposition activists.

Those allegations have persisted for this election.