IT’S CAMPAIGN TIME-EPRDF: DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENTALISM



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?

As the campaign time has already begun, our party is working to use its media airtime allocated by the NEBE. Moreover, as per the law, we are utilising other ways to reach out to the public.

Q: Before the campaign time, there was a rigorous process of recruiting candidates running for the election representing the Party. What kind of criteria do you use to select your candidates?

First and foremost, each candidate is supposed to be ready to handle responsibilities and fulfil their promise for the electorate. These candidates must also gain the trust of the public and must have the commitment to implement EPRDF’s policies and programs. In line with this, the EPRDF has prepared a parameter and accordingly we recruited candidates, evaluated and finally approved their candidacy. As far as our representatives are concerned, each representative is supposed to work and defend the interest of EPRDF.

Q: How many candidates has your party been able to register? Did you get a confirmation from the board?

We managed to have 501 and 1,300 political candidates registered for the federal parliament and regional councils, respectively. But the final data by the Board, in this regard, is yet to be announced.

Q: In relation to the pre-election process, there were some critical decisions made by the NEBE which raised controversy. The Board’s decision on internal party politics of conflicts related to the Unity for Democracy & Justice (UDJ) a.k.a Andinet and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) could be mentioned. Some say that the decision was actually inappropriate and it has negative implication on the multiparty democratic system the country aspires to build. What is your reflection?

In principle, if parties fail to solve their internal problem, there is a responsible body to treat their case so that they can get a solution. And as EPRDF, we believe that the decision given by the Board is appropriate. When we come to the actual process, the Board has been given enough time to solve their problem internally. Hence, as an observer, we evaluate the process and the final decision was justified.

Q: Regarding the procedures followed by the Board to determine the candidates in some 18 constituencies, it is known that the Board has eliminated independent candidates and decided the fate of political parties via lot. Some political commentators condemned the procedure and the law used by the Board as it goes against individual right. How do you evaluate such critics?

EPRDF believes the law has no gaps or defects. If these parties, in the first place, see the law as problematic, they should not enter into the process.

But fundamentally criticising and questioning the law after getting into the process is wrong. What we observe is that particular parties enter into the process of lot and in some constituencies they win a lot and we never heard those talking negative things about the law. But in other constituencies, where they lose a lot, we heard them criticizing the law. This is a double standard.

In relation to individual political candidates, the law is very rational. Since parties represent more people than individual political candidates, priority is given for political parties. But still individuals have been given the chance to compete. The law does not completely take away their rights. The specific example that happened in Addis Abeba was a procedural decision. It does not go against individual rights.

Q: As far as creating a conducive election environment is concerned and making the election a free, fair and democratic one, what measures have you taken, as a party?  

EPRDF is committed to making the election to free, fair and democratic. This emanates from respecting the general public and letting them exercise their sovereign power. Having this in mind, we designed our strategy to make the election participatory. And as per this strategy, we have given training for our high ranking cadres to understand the strategy and to work in making the election process conducive. Moreover, we have been working with other political parties through a Joint Council of political parties.

Q: What is your party’s target as far as the results are concerned?

To secure a seat that is sufficient to form a government and continue the ongoing development process.

Q: Do you think you will repeat the same success of 2010 national election?

We believe elections from the first up to the fourth national election have been successful for EPRDF. There nothing unique about the 2010 election.

Q: During the 2005 election, opposition parties won many seats in parliament. But in the 2010 election, only two seats were occupied by political candidates aside from EPRDF. Does your party have the chance to win at a level as equivalent as the 2010 election?

Actually, during the 2005 election, opposition parties gain protest vote that is denied from the EPRDF. And as we see it through the 2010 election, the results of this election may not repeat. The main point is letting the public to decide its fate by its own.

Q: Some are saying, after what happened in 2005, the public is not interested to have a stake in political activism, much less an election. Do you think the public is somehow interested to have a kind of election vibe like that of 2005?

To comment on this, first we have to see facts. When we see figures, in terms of the number of voters, 2005 election was below all. According to our data, out of the total number of registered voters, only 83pc came to vote. But in elections before 2005 and after it, almost above 90pc out of the total registered came to polling stations.

Again, when we see other parameters, for instance 2010 election was peaceful and in general this election was better at every comparison. Because the public gave its vote to opposition parties would not make 2005 election different from other elections.

Q: EPRDF was repeatedly saying that it will facilitate on substitution of the old leadership line by new one. Will this agenda actually manifest itself on the members of the party who will run for the election?

It is early to talk about detailed issues and we will disclose it soon. But it is known that we have been working on it for the past five and six years. I mean, the process is inevitable as nature limits us. However, this is not the only reason. Rather new leadership line has to come to the leadership sphere.

 



By DAWIT ENDESHAW
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

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


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