Ruling Coalition Undergoes Reformation, Opposition Should Too

There is an adage in Ethiopia that politics and electricity should be kept far away. This is a consequence of decades of political monopoly by single parties and lack of a political culture where the general public has been too passive in its engagement.

Politics has rarely been free from perceptions of political repression and corruption in Africa, and Ethiopia has not been much different.

Too many that have been able to assume the highest offices of the land have considered it a lifetime vocation. This having been the case for far too long, we have found the peaceful assumption as well as the exit of Hailemariam Desalegn from premiership surprising. Political loyalty thus has been considered the shortest, and in some cases, the only means to resources.

Unfortunately, unhealthy political practices are not exclusive to in incumbent parties. Opposition political parties are susceptible to the same shortfalls that are mostly directed at for those in office.

Standing in opposition is risky, especially where there are no strong institutions. But there is great need for multiparty system of government that the constitution allows to be translated into practice on the ground. Equally, it is the duty of incumbents to level the playing field for opposition parties by providing the essential constitutional and institutional protections.

Undeniably, democratic institutions such as the public media have been highly partisan to the incumbents, and the EPRDF has crowded out other parties. This can best be seen in a parliament controlled entirely by the ruling coalition and its regional allies. Much of this has been acknowledged by the incumbents, and like most other times, they have vowed to change.

But the obstacles for the opposition camp are not only external but also internal. Most of them do not have clear policies and strategies. They also lack a proper organizational structure. Most have one or two prominent faces able to articulate objectives and agendas and exercise leadership. Too many have broken up as a result of internal strife and can be seen bickering with one another.

There is little sense of compromise, making it unsurprising that despite every part of government is controlled by a single party, there are over 90 opposition parties that are legally recognised.

Due to the inherent nature of politics in Ethiopia, coloured by violence during the Dergueand the perception of political repression the incumbents have not been able to rid themselves, political engagement is rare. Employers, as well as family members frown upon being a member of any political party.

Political affairs thus have remained the affair of the few. Adding to this phenomenon is the poor organisation of existing opposition political parties and lack of distinct objectives that can mobilise the youth. While this is the status quo, a vibrant political culture with strong opposition parties will remain a pipe dream.

As the public expects the ruling coalition to reform and open up the political space, the opposition must first recognise that it is too fragmented to put up any significant peaceful struggle and change. The objective of a contending party should not be to merely talk down current policies and strategies. It ought to present alternatives to the public discontent.

Good governance is not a positive attribute of a party that is learnt while in control of power. If undeveloped at a party level, it could not develop once in public office.

Opposition parties have to be able to take themselves seriously, mobilise better and do their homework on matters Ethiopia they would like to see.  

Being divisive to contradict the incumbents should not be part of the political culture. There is a need to strengthen and improve the quality of membership. One way this could happen is if some of them merged, which is a move that would require enormous compromise and courage to carry out. 

Competitive politics in Ethiopia does not have a good track record, and we have not been able to see it practised. But there are good signs evident from the current administration, and the opposition parties need to rise to the occasion. They ought to be able to prove themselves in the eyes of the electorate in the general election that would take place in just two years’ time.

By Abraham Negussie
Abraham Negussie ( is a public relations and communication officer at Awash Bank. He has a blog called - ‘’. The writer would like to humbly reiterate that this article is his own personal viewpoint.

Published on Jun 23,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 947]



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