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25 May, 2015

Mulugeta Tesfay

Parliamentary democracy in Ethiopia is of a recent phenomenon not exceeding a generation. For generations, Ethiopians dreamt and struggled to see a Democratic Ethiopia governed by the people, to the people and for the people, an aspiration in which tens of thousands are martyred, amputated, starved, sweated and in millions descended.


The nature of democratic rule has been and will remain to seize as a subject of fierce ideological and political debate. Democracy as a major ideological system has endured ups and downs and emerged as the only stable form of political rule. Though democracy existed as an enduring principle, its fundamental value is not yet fully realized even in  Western democracies. Hence it can be said that there is no perfect democracy in this planet. However, the general consensus is that imperfect democracy is better than no democracy.


Ethiopia is in a process of democratization. Our democracy is so young that it needs nurture and care for its continuity. It has to be nurtured like a human body. Some of the vital supplements are: committed government, tighter rules, stirred up citizenry, vigilant oppositions, independent judges and inquisitive media, notwithstanding sovereign people and country.


One form of democratic participation is election, a means through which people give mandate to their representatives to run the government formed on their own behalf. The people of Ethiopia have so far under gone five successive elections including the recent election. During the latest election over 50 political parties vied for power, from the ruling party to the opposition parties campaigning to win the hearts and minds of their constituents to get their votes.

Ethiopians’ participatory political culture is growing from time to time that they pay close attention to politics and regard political participation as effective mechanism for peace, stability and development. Their uncompromisable orientation have enabled them that government power is only attained through peaceful means out of the ballot box.


 Unity in diversity is the magic power of their strength as a nation and people to exist. At one epoch they were at the apex of civilization though did not continue for various reasons, now are striving with vigor, day in day out, being hand in glove to assume their pride and dignity back; not otherwise as some venomous oppositions dubbed cheap " rkash " labor as a source of dishonor.


It was from the above perspective that the Ethiopian people gave their verdict in the election as to which party would be worth full to be the custodian of their government for the next five years.  Wouldn't they deserve honor and respect from the International Community for their thoughtful and descent decisions? Indeed, they would. The election was indeed peaceful and is a victory and a jubilee to the Ethiopian people but also a reminder of the past sacrifices paid for today’s jubilation.


During the last election campaign, different trends of political thinking and leadership styles were debated, from liberal to social to developmental state type of democracy. The most heated debate was the economy, foreign policy and to some extent on individual and group rights. To recapitulate the debates on a nutshell:

- On the economy, the main issues were on whether the country’s economy should be opened totally to foreign capitals in all spheres of the economy or with significant participation of the government, encourage local investors and lift up the country from the quagmire of poverty and hence create a middle income society in ten or fifteen years time. The sad thing to hear was that some opposition parties proposed a fanciful policies in which the country may claim to earmark a trillion dollars annual budget every year.


- On foreign policy, the central point is to create a sphere of influence based on good neighborly hood lines and partnership based on mutual interest, from the nearest radial orbit of our national and security interest to a larger and larger radial orbit of interests. It was sad to hear from some oppositions campaigning in retrospective influenced by touches of nostalgia for the derg and feudal regimes.


- On individual and group rights, these rights are double face of the same coin, wherever there is group right there is individual rights, cannot be dissociated, they go hand in hand.


Ethiopia, with a population growing exponentially reaching now over 90m., compounded with ages old social, economic and infrastructural problems, is a complicated task for a governing party to undertake such a huge enterprise. However, with all those enduring tasks,  Ethiopia has become the bearer of brand names like long phrase adjectives such as, the fastest growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, a country that will fulfill the MDG, a country with poverty alleviation policy and strategy and name others, have almost become synonymous to Ethiopia. This is the reality Ethiopians are living with. However, some oppositions and diehard politicians are in contempt to these realities.


The people have a lot to give to the political parties and the political parties have a lot to offer to the people. Such reciprocity can only prevail when there is only a sanity of affairs. The people have shown a sanity by abridging their prerogatives to the parties they thrust through election. And likewise, the would be elected parties have to show a sanity of affairs to their people not treating as their masters but as their servants at least and respect their verdict as final and binding. Ethiopians have successfully undergone their election, congratulations!! Though the proof of the pudding is in the eating, let us wait and see the final results until declared by NEBE.

Mulugeta Tesfay

Retired Diplomat



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