I see my resignation as vital, says Hailemariam.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has resigned as party chairman and premier, state media reported Thursday.
The PM submitted his resignation letter to the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition on Thursday.
Mr Hailemariam took over as chairman and Ethiopian premier in 2012 following the death of his predecessor Meles Zenawi.
The surprise resignation comes amid protracted anti-government protests that has left hundreds dead and thousands of political prisoners.
Protests began in late 2015 in Oromia and Amhara regions before spreading to other parts of the country.
The Ethiopian parliament was forced to declare a 10-monh state of emergency the following year.
The emergency quelled the worst of the violence but periodic uprisings still occur.
This week disenchanted young men wielding sticks and rocks blocked roads and businesses stayed shut in and around the capital Addis Ababa.
In a bid to ease tensions, the government last month began issuing a string of pardons and prisoner releases.
Mr Hailemariam said then that jailed "politicians" would be released "to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform".
His stepping down from power is unprecedented in the vast East African country.
In a televised address on Thursday Mr Hailemariam said: "Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many."
"... I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy," he said.
Mr Hailemariam will stay on as prime minister until the ruling EPRDF and parliament accept his resignation and name his successor.
- Additional reporting by AFP