If politics is the art of compromise, that is what happened in the town of Meqelle last week

If politics is the art of compromise, that is what happened in the town of Meqelle last week. Senior leaders of the TPLF, the principal partner in the ruling EPRDF coalition, have managed to reshuffle their leadership, in the manner that is a compromise of forces on both sides of the aisle, claims gossip.

Those who had wanted to dislodge the status quo have succeeded in doing so during their fourth attempt over the past five years, gossip disclosed. Those who fought hard to keep the status quo, however, managed to see individual politicians who caused damage to their reputation but preferred by the “old guard” were not installed into a position of power, claims gossip.

No less contested was the role of the veterans of the TPLF – numbered 18 – who were allowed to attend central committee meetings, but without having the right to vote. Azeb Mesfin, who was eventually suspended from the leadership, was on the forefront of challenging the veterans’ participation as “illegitimate” and “inappropriate”.

Along with Abay Woldu, the former chairman, and perhaps Addisalem Balema (PhD), they were groups who tried hard to maintain the status quo, considering it as a preservation of “Meles’s legacy”. Neither was the military brass a bystander in this intimate politics of the TPLF, with its invisible hand supporting those who stood in defence of the status quo, claims gossip. The “reformers” were essentially led by politicians such as Alem Gebrewahid, Beyene Mikru and Getachew Assefa, with the tactful support of the veterans such as Sebhat Nega, Abay Tsehaye and Seyoum Mesfin, gossip disclosed.

The outcome of such bitterly fought political struggle was the elevation of Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) as chairman of the party and Fetleworq (Monjorino) Gebreegziabyer as TPLF’s deputy chair, perhaps eyeing the presidency of the regional administration, gossip foresees. With the ejection of Abay Woldu and Beyene from the politburo, four individuals were pulled up to it: Asmelash Woldesellasie, Abraham Tekeste (PhD), Getachew Reda and Kerya Ibrahim.

More damning though was the statement the TPLF issued at the conclusion of the high-level meeting that took a month and a half. It was a rare moment of self-admonition, mincing no words in its selection and no less brutal in its tone, gossip said. The statement-making a point of mentioning Meles’s legacy only once, that is in-passing – blamed the leadership for harboring anti-democratic behaviour and practice; lacked unity of purpose and action; failed to provide strategic leadership on the basis of principle and fighting spirit; absorbed itself in self preservation; remained complacent for marginal gains; and was contented with reports in falsehood.

Ironically, both the new chair and his deputy, alongside three other politburo members, were party to the same leadership that is subjected to such grating criticisms, claims gossip. But unlike Abay, Debretsion has conceded to the flak of words that he was not outspoken, is reluctant to author policy and ideological scriptures and was indifferent to the fight against the leadership’s vices listed in the statement in a brutal candidness, claims gossip. He was spared from ejection from the politburo by a marginal one vote although later on he was elected to the chair by a staggering 36 votes, gossip disclosed.

But, many see in him an able technical man with high academic excellence and meticulousness but a dispassionate politician. He is known to be a practical and pragmatic person endowed with an organised and structured thought process, claims gossip.

Nonetheless, some see the significance of last week’s event less on the reshuffling of the leadership as they see in the evaluation process, says gossip. The manner in which the TPLF leaders reflected deeply inward, and the admission of being a roadblock for moving forward in the national politics amounts to breaking the deadlock, thus a game changer in politics, according to gossip.

It is, thus, worthwhile to pay attention to two things in the months ahead, claims gossip.

The relevance of reshuffling the leadership is in response to the need to consolidate and bring cohesion in the exercise of power, gossip observed. The leadership will prioritise the work of streamlining its support among the cadres to win delegates that will convene for the Front’s congress next February, right before the EPRDF convention, claims gossip. The battle is not over yet, claims gossip.

But, how will the new leadership behave in its relationship with leaders of the other parties in the coalition in its bid to reclaim its place in national politics? Will it become confrontation and adversarial in reclaiming its past hold in the EPRDF or will it be pragmatic enough to realise that the dynamics within the ruling coalition has reached a point of no return; thus, the spirit of persuasion and cooperation will prevail? The jury is still out, claims gossip.

Published on Dec 02,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 918]



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