IT’S CAMPAIGN TIME-EDP: LIBERALISM



It is election time in Ethiopia. Political parties are doing all their best to obtain as many seats in the federal parliament and regional councils as possible. For the ruling EPRDF, the battle is all about maintaining the majority that it had for the past 23 years. But for the political opposition, the play is all about snatching the throne from the ruling party and forming a new government. As the campaigning period ingresses, DAWIT ENDESHAW, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, sits with representatives of the ruling EPRDF and three opposition parties to converse about their preparation for the election, their thoughts about the pre-election process and their prediction of the election results. In these exclusive interviews conducted separately, Beyene Petros (Prof.), chairman of MEDREK; Reday Halefom, head of Public Relations for the EPRDF; Yonathan Tesfaye, head of Public Relations for Semayawi Party; and Chane Kebede (PhD), president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), share their perspectives about various issues, not the last of which is their reflection on the conduct of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).


It is election time in Ethiopia. Political parties are doing all their best to obtain as many seats in the federal parliament and regional councils as possible. For the ruling EPRDF, the battle is all about maintaining the majority that it had for the past 23 years. But for the political opposition, the play is all about snatching the throne from the ruling party and forming a new government. As the campaigning period ingresses, DAWIT ENDESHAW, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, sits with representatives of the ruling EPRDF and three opposition parties to converse about their preparation for the election, their thoughts about the pre-election process and their prediction of the election results. In these exclusive interviews conducted separately, Beyene Petros (Prof.), chairman of MEDREK; Reday Halefom, head of Public Relations for the EPRDF; Yonathan Tesfaye, head of Public Relations for Semayawi Party; and Chane Kebede (PhD), president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), share their perspectives about various issues, not the last of which is their reflection on the conduct of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).  

 

 

Q: How is your party’s preparation for the upcoming election going?

Our party wishes to have a smooth and successful election. Having this in mind and inline with the schedules set by the NEBE, we are mobilizing our party.

We have established two task forces. The first task force deals with preparing a manifesto document, facilitating debates and recruiting members who represent the party. The second task force has been monitoring the election process; from recruiting up to having registering candidates and reports on any irregularities regarding this and any complaints. Some of our candidates are facing a problem in Wolayta Zone, Eastern Gojjam and Gamo Gofa Zone.

We already have successfully concluded recruiting and having registered our candidates for the upcoming election.

Q: Did your party receive confirmation from the NEBE about the exact number of candidates who passed to the final list (Kits-4)? How many of your candidates managed to get through to the list?

Not yet. Somehow we didn’t, as the Board operates manually. We believe such ways of operation forced the Board to lag behind schedule and it needs to work a lot on it.

As far as we know, the data we have right now is the number of candidates that we initially gave to the Board. We do not have the final list of candidates who pass to the Kits-4.

Q: You were saying that the time given by the Board for candidate registration was not sufficient. You were saying this has somehow affected your party’s plan as far as registration of candidates is concerned. How and to what extent does the impact go?

Yes, of course, it has affected us. We were demanding to have two more additional weeks, but the Board has only given one week. This has forced us to achieve only 80pc to 85pc of our target.

Q: Is there any place that your party has failed to have candidates due to this insufficient time for registration?

We do not have candidates in Somali and Gambella regions. And this happened due to shortcoming in terms of time given.

Q: With regard to the pre-election process, there were some incidents that raised controversy. One could mention the decision of the NEBE on the intraparty conflicts of the Unity for Democracy & Justice (UDJ) a.k.a Andinet, and the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP), and that of adjusting the number of candidates per consistency in Addis Abeba. What is your reflection on the pre-election process?

In our view, the decision made by the board regarding the two political parties was not appropriate. Our party evaluates it in two ways; one the side of the parties and the Board. On side of the Board, its final decision lacks responsibility. On the other hand, the members of each party pave the way for the problem.

They were supposed to solve their own internal problems instead of exposing themselves to a decision that was made out of legal grounds.

What happened in adjusting the number of candidates in constituencies of Addis Abeba was made in accordance to law. What we need is fighting to amend the law and trying to fill the gaps based on analysis and research. Unfortunately, having more than 23 parties registered in a single constituency will divide the votes and give the opportunity for others.

Q: Some political commentators say the law need to give a better chance for independent candidates and accommodate new political parties.

The law does have gaps. It is not only on this article, but there are also others. For instance, this specific law violates individual rights and this has to be adjusted. The law has to find a way to accommodate such rights. Again, new parties that have popularity may come and this has also been treated. But, in general, we believe the law has gaps and it has to be amend.

Q: Have you tried to voice your concerns on these gaps and demanded for the modification of this law?

During the drafting of this law, we used to have seats in the Parliament and we had raised our concerns. But since the law passed on basis of majority vote, we were left with no option. Ever since, we have been presenting such cases to the Joint Council, though, no concrete solution has come of late.

Q: What are your goals as far as the election results are concerned?

Our first goal to is assume power, of course, if the electorate gave us their vote. But if we fail to get votes sufficient to establish a government, we would strive to have as many votes as possible, have seats in parliament and present our party’s agenda and voice to the electorate.

We are running to win!! We are sure we will do, if the election is conducted fairly and freely!

Q: Do you think the public have the interest with an election vibe as compared to that of election 2005?

What happened during the post-2005 election, especially the problem that had happened at that time due to conflict among political figures, left its scar on the political enthusiasm of the public. One of the challenges of peaceful political struggle is when such kinds of incidents happen, it is very difficult to re-establish the mindset of the electorate and reignite the public feeling towards political activism.

It may take some five or ten years to bring such political atmosphere. Now we are creating a public overwhelmed by fear and economic advantages. Having this in mind, we are starting from a low base.

Q: Many have been criticizing your party and some of the political figures in your party for being responsible for the collapse of the then Coalition for Unity & Democracy (CUD). This attitude still exists within the political atmosphere. Is your party thriving through it all?

We have been in many ups and downs. Passing all this and surviving from an outrageous and false accusation from different political groups, right now, our party is in a very good shape and very strong.

We are receiving more support and trust from the people. We have proved this during a public gathering in Bahir Dar and Mekelle. In addition, many scholars are working with the party as advisors.

Q: How do you view and evaluate the fifth national election in comparison to the previous one?

In relation to public awakening as well as the mobilization of political parties, this year, election has seen progress. It shows that if there was no suppression, the electorate will elect its preferred party.

However, the previous one was almost stagnant and proved to be problematic. The whole election process of the fourth national election was faint. As far as the suppression orchestrated by EPRDF is concerned, still, we are facing the same things and we are not feeling comfortable with the conduct of the law enforcement forces and member of councils at Wereda level as they are restricting our activities.

Q: – Recently, you have released your party’s manifesto. Under the list of economic focus areas, it says that you will work in providing basic utility services (power, water, and telecommunication) in accordance with the paying capacity of the general public. In light of your party’s ideological line, what does this mean? Are you going to liberalise these sectors?

If we get the chance to be a government, we believe that all the aforementioned services have to be provided by the government. However, in providing the services, the private sector will have a stake.

What we are witnessing right now is the government monopolizing all levels of service provision. So based on a negotiation, on basis of clearly defined legal framework, the private sector will be encouraged.

Q: In view of your manifesto, how do you wish to restructure the institutions of the state, espcially law enforcement units and others related to democratic rights?

We wish to have a civil service as an institution that is independent from any political interference. We also would like to have institutions, except political nominees at ministerial levels, filled with experts. We wish for civil servants to be evaluated only based on their merit. But what we have now is, from minister to the experts, everyone is aligned to the ruling party.

Q: How do you evaluate the NEBE?

It is difficult to say because it needs evidence and a lot of research ought to be conducted. However, when we come to the actual election process, especially at Wereda level, and see election officials nominated by the Board, we would be challenged to say the Board is impartial. Most of election officials are members of the EPRDF and guardians of its interests.



By DAWIT ENDESHAW
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on March 9, 2015 [ Vol 15 ,No 775]


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