Opposition Parties Will Have No One But Themselves To Blame


Opposition Parties Will Have No One But Themselves To Blame

Ejegayehu Adane   Jan 20, 2015


The government and peoples of Ethiopia have started preparations for the 5th National and Regional elections. According to the timetable, May the 24th will be the voting date and the result will be announced on 22 June 2015.

Numerous vital activities have taken place in the past few weeks. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) successfully distributed election materials to electoral zones across the country.

In the last week of December, the peoples gathered in their local districts and elected 250,000 public observers who will assume have the responsibility to supervise and observe the election process at commenced in 46,000 polling stations. That is: Each polling station will have five public observers, while each constituency election office will have three mobile public observers.

Each polling station around the country is structured in a way that each station is only allowed to register a maximum number of 1,000 electorates and the arrangement has been made based on this parameter.

According to the data obtained from National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), the Board has allocated 44,454 polling stations, with 222,270 public observers and 547 constituencies with 1,935 election officials.

As far as regional distribution is concerned, Oromia regional state has the largest number of polling stations, public observers and election officials with 15,501, 77,501 and 537, respectively. At the other extreme, there is Harari, with 140 polling stations, 700 public observers and six election officials. Whereas Addis Abeba has 1,523 polling stations with 7,615 public observers, and 69 election officials.

Another key electoral activity that started in the first week of the new year was the registration of voters.

It is known that there is always a high turnout in Ethiopia's elections. In the 2010 election, over 29 million out of the 31 million people registered to vote general had cast their votes, according to a report released by International Democratic Election Agent (IDEA). The figure indicates a 94 percent voter turnout which is very high compared to Africa’s average turnout at 67.3 per cent.

Similarly, some 36 million voters are expected to be registered in the 42 days long registration timetable. According to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) more than 20 million voters have registered since the commencement of the registration on January 9.

Accordingly, political parties have started their own preparations. As usual, the ruling party the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) reaffirmed its commitment to democratic, free, peaceful and credible.

The regular session of EPRDF Executive Committee held two weeks ago confirmed that EPRDF and its government are ready to discharge their responsibility and ensure free and fair election. Preparations are also underway to create equal space for all contesting political parties, it said.

It did disclose that EPRDF has finalized preparations to provide training to its leaders and members to effectively implement the election code of conduct, which was approved and adopted by many political parties during the fourth general elections.

The Committee also urged the public to contribute their share for the successfully conduct of the election. It also called on contesting political parties to contribute their share in the efforts being made to build democracy through contesting in a civilized and peacefully way in the upcoming election.

Moreover, the party organized a trainers’ training session for senior government and party leaders aimed at empowering senior leaders of the party to raise their awareness on the election proclamation and ensure the fairness and accountability of the upcoming May election.

According to EPRDF Council Secretary and PR Head Desta Tesfaw, the training aimed to boost the capacity of officials, ranging from federal to local government ranks, and contribute in making the political sphere more accommodating to all and to sustain the process of fostering a multi-party system in the country as well as promoting a favorable competing environment for political parties thereby enhancing the political sphere and boosting the process of building a democratic system in Ethiopia.

Similarly, most of the opposition political have started preparations for the election.

For example, the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek) disclosed it is being prepared to be strong contestant at the elections. The preparation of election manifesto and registration of candidates are among the preparation that Medrek carried out.

The Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) announced that the party is striving to actively participate in the election.

United Ethiopian Democratic Forces(UEDF) disclosed that it has already finalized registration of candidates. According to the President of the Party, the party is going to contest in the nine states.

The President of UEDF stated, "as the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces is a national party, we are willing and preparing to compete in the nine states. Although we have limited resources we are trying to assign candidates to all regions." He also told the media that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia for supporting parties regarding finance and provision of trainings on crisis management and urged the Board for the continuation of the support during the election process also, saying his party didn't encounter any challenge so far.

The United Ethiopian Democratic Party(UEDP) is one of the parties that announced that it is on the track to compete in the elections. The President of the Party said "We are in good shape to cast candidates in every part of the country." he said.

Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), is well ahead in election preparations. CUD Public Relations Head, Sasahuleh Kebede, told media that his party would field many female candidates at national and regional levels and has also put emphasis on recruiting female mobile and permanent observers. Moreover, series of training have been given by the party so that women could become strong competitors in the election.   

New Generation Party (NGP) which is also advancing in election preparations has noted 35 percent of the total 280 candidates to be fielded by the party across the country are female.   

Speaking of female candidates, the EPRDF will have the biggest female candidates. In the upcoming election, 40 percent of EPRDF’s candidates at federal level would be women and 50 percent at regional level.

Similar preparations are underway by up to 60 parties who plan to run for seats in the upcoming elections.

In this process, the government and the National Board of Election had taken measures to ensure the election will be to democratic, free, peaceful and credible. As Chairperson of the Board Merga Bekana (Prof.) asserted:

"We in the Electoral Board say the political space is wide. When we say it is wide we mean that the service we are providing is satisfying. First we are providing training for the parties using the best people in the area. Second we have a close relation with the parties. We are solving challenges by consulting with regional administrations."

In cooperation with the ruling part and parliamentary opposition parties, the Board have had enacted and amended key  proclamations, such as:

·       Proclamation no. 662/2009 - A proclamation to provide for the electoral code of conduct for political parties

·       Proclamation no. 532/2007 - A proclamation to amend the electoral law of Ethiopia

·       Proclamation no. 573/2008 - Political parties registration proclamation

It have carried out several capacity building measures as well as the issuance of several important directives:

·       Code Of Conduct for the Mass Media and Journalists on the Manner of Reporting about Elections Regulation Number 6/2010

·       The Amended Directive on the Code of Conduct of Election Officials to Be Recruited at Various Levels Directive Number 4/2009

·       Regulation Concerning the Procedure for Determining the Apportionment of Government Financial Support to Political Parties Regulation

·       Organization and Procedure of Grievance Hearing Committees Established by the Board at Every Level During Elections Regulation Number 1/2009 (As Amended)

·       Directive on the Registration of Candidates Number  1/2009(As Amended)

·       Directive for the Registration of Electors number 2/2009(As Amended)

·       Directive Concerning the Procedure for the Activities of Public Observers and Representatives of Political Parties and Private Candidates Number 3/2009

However, two parties are lagging behind.

The reasons for their delay has been being reported misleadingly.

Last week, Reuters reported:

Ethiopia's sole opposition member of parliament said on Friday the country's electoral board had turned down all four election logos his party had submitted, preventing it from registering for the May election.

Girma Seifu said his Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and the board had been haggling over the logo for months.

"From the very beginning, (government) activities have not been free and fair," Girma said. "They do not want us to participate. It is a tactic."

A similar story on VOA claimed that:

Ethiopian opposition parties say they are facing roadblocks in their efforts to register for the May elections. The parties say the National Election Board is complicating procedures for no good reason, and raising doubt that the elections will be free or fair.

The Unity for Democracy and Justice party has the only opposition member in Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament. But it is unclear if the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections, as the National Election Board has rejected UDJ logos.

UDJ vice chairman Girma Seifu -- the only member of parliament not affiliated with Ethiopia's ruling party -- said the election board's actions were not justified.

“They do not have any legal ground or moral ground or administrative guideline to do these things. Because this is just an interference just to put a block on our active participation in the election,” said Seifu.

That was echoed by All Africa:

Unity for Democracy and Justice Party is accusing NEBE, saying the board is conspiring to push UDJ out of the election battle. This accusation came after the board announcement that the election of UDJ president held on October 12, 2014, replacing Gizachew Shiferaw (Eng) by Belay Fekadu, was illegal as it was against the party's bylaws and Revised Political Parties' Registration Proclamation.

The decision by the board has the intention of removing the party from the election, said Girma Seifu, during a press brief held at the party's headquarters on January 9, 2015.

The truth is far different from this distorted accusations.

The National Election Board have been generous, accommodating and flexible within the limits of the law in its effort to enable Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP)take part in the electoral process.

Although the parties have not been able to solve disagreements that have been created among their leaders and Instead of convening a general assembly, the parties have selected their leaders in violation of their own bylaws and Board regulations and therefore failed to present their candidates for the upcoming general election.

The Board had refrained from exercising its legal mandate to take disciplinary measures or exclude them from the election. Instead, it fixed a deadline for them to settle their disagreements and solve the internal conflicts that have engulfed the two parties over the past few months.

However, that deadline passed on January 12, 2015. Although the Board had given the two parties a week's time to settle their differences through discussion, nothing came out of the discussions to date.

That was a violation of their own internal rules and regulations and the political parties registration proclamation, as Professor Merga noted.

Nevertheless, the Board has continued to take a generous, accommodating and flexible approach to the matter. In its report last week, the Board noted that:

AEUP had held its general assembly without the presence of the Board as the party changed the set day of the assembly. Some of the leaders were elected after they left the party and this is against the party's bylaws.

A group within AEUP which is led by Mamushet Amare, over the weekend elected party leaders, while others elected a different leadership.

The Board reported that UDJ is currently split between two factions that held separate general assembly meetings over the weekend. The two opposing factions of UDJ are led by Ayele Simeneh and Belay Fikadu.

Professor Merga Bekana, Chairperson of NEBE disclosed that the two parties have failed to resolve the conflicts by calling their respective general assemblies and electing their leaders adhering by the parties rules and regulations and the political parties’ registration proclamation, before the deadline expired.

Nevertheless, having considered the interest of the general public and taken the process of democratization into consideration, the board has decided to give UDJ a second chance.

The Board extended the deadline and urged the two parties to resolve their internal conflicts within the coming two weeks. Moreover, advised the leadership of both parties to come together in their own respective general assemblies to solve their problems and carry on their election campaigns.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the two parties to make use of the generous, accommodating and flexible approach of the Board and solve their internal crissis and join the electoral process before it is too late.



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