Professor Beyene’s remarks on the code of conduct for political parties
By Bereket Gebru 01-08-15
After recently reading news reports
that Professor Beyene Petros stated that his party, Ethiopian Federal
Democratic Union, would sign the electoral code of conduct for political
parties if additional things are included, I went on to see if those things
have not been already addressed in the proclamation. The points raised by the
Professor as complementary add-ons are capable election administration, behavior
of political parties during election and activities of election observers. The
Professor also stressed that the ruling party should also hold discussion on
various issues with opposition political parties. He also called for the
establishment of special electoral courts that deal with electoral complaints at
various local government levels.
Professor Beyene Petros then
expressed his party’s readiness to become signatory to the code of conduct if
the preconditions he stated earlier would be met. The Professor also said that
his party would not feel defeated if it became a signatory of the code of
conduct considering that its aim and activity is popular.
The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary
Democratic Party (EPRDF), the ruling party, responded to the Forum’s demands by
stating that numerous political parties, including the Forum, were invited to
discuss on the draft code of ethics. The news report states that the political
party walked off discussions on the code of ethics not once but thrice. Then, it
states that the EPRDF disclosed that recent queries by the party are not
appropriate as the proclamation has been adopted and enforced for over three
This article deals with the
proclamation on the code of conduct of political parties examining if the
additional remarks by the Forum are indeed missing. It generally deals with
whether the proclamation has sections that may not be in the best interest of
opposition political parties.
Let’s first consider the points
raised by Professor Beyene one by one and check if those things have not been
covered by the proclamation on the code of conduct of political parties. One of
the complementary add-ons he suggested was a section on the behavior of
political parties during times of election.
The first suggestion
by Professor Beyene Petros had to do with capable election administration. The
Election Board being the body in charge of election administration, his
comments seem to be about building the capacity of this body. Accordingly,
various activities have been carried out to build the capacity of the Board.
Recent news reports have also stated of the efforts by the National Electoral
Board of Ethiopia to build the capacity of regional branch offices to make the upcoming 2015 general
elections fair and democratic. The news report states that restructuring
of regional offices has been undertaken for the success of the general
elections citing Board Chairperson, Professor Merga Bekana. The Board has
already finalized preparation of basic election materials to be used by the
offices and distributed vehicles to four regional states and two city
administrations. Training has been provided for heads of offices on relevant
rules and regulations, crises management and other related issues, the Chairperson
was quoted as saying.
Another suggestion by the Professor
has to do with a section on the behavior of political parties. The Proclamation
on the code of conduct of political parties, as the name clearly shows, is a
set of rules and regulations dictating the behavior of political parties,
individuals and various institutions during elections. This fact has been
clearly stated in the preamble. It states:
Bearing in mind that lessons drawn
from previous elections necessitates the promulgation of detailed code of
conduct for political parties, candidates, members and supporters of political
parties to ensure that subsequent elections are guided by ethical rules of
conduct and that they are transparent, free, legitimate, fair, peaceful,
democratic and acceptable by the people…
Recognizing that the Election Board,
the mass media and the justice institutions should be independent and impartial
from any political party in their activities; recognizing also that the
National Defense Forces are made to discharge their responsibilities based on
the constitution without any influence from the political parties;
As has been stated above, the
proclamation itself is a result of the recognition of the need to mainstream
acceptable behaviors by parties, candidates and supporters into a common frame
for all. Further provisions determining the behavior of these bodies are also
included in the proclamation. One of these provisions is Section 2, 8 and it
deals with campaign management. It states:
Any Political party shall;
a) Respect the right and freedom of
all other parties to campaign, and to disseminate
b) Conduct itself in a manner that
respects the rights of other parties, and respect the rights of voters and
other members of the community;
c) Respect the freedom of the miss
d) Use its good offices to seek to
ensure reasonable freedom of access by all parties to all potential voters; and
e) Seek to ensure that potential
voters wishing to participate in related political activities have freedom to
2/ Any political party may not;
a) Harass or
obstruct private or Government journalists who are engaged in their
professional Activities, disrupt, destroy or frustrate the campaign efforts of
any other party;
b) Prevent the
distribution of handbills and leaflets, and the display of posters, of other
parties and candidates;
c) Deface or
destroy the posters of other parties and candidates;
d) Prevent or in
any way hamper any other party from holding rallies, meetings, marches or
e) Seek to prevent
any person from attending the political rallies of another party; or
supporters to do anything prohibited by this section.
Yet another one
these provisions dealing with the behavior of these bodies is Section 2, 11 entitled
‘content of campaign speech’. It states:
11. Content of
1. Every political
a) Organize and
conduct its election campaign in a manner that contributes toward a congenial
and peaceful atmosphere during the campaign, polling, counting, and
post-election period; and
b) Act with a sense
of responsibility and dignity befitting its status.
2. Every speaker at
political rallies shall refrain from
inflammatory, or defamatory statements
b) Threatening or
inciting violence in any form against any person or groups.
3. A political
party may not issue or distribute either officially or anonymously, pamphlets,
newsletters or posters containing language or material that threatens or
prejudice to other laws no one shall exert pressure on political parties or
candidates based on their speech during the election campaign.
proclamation clearly states the duties of political parties and candidates as
stated in Section 3, 17 entitled ‘duties of political parties and candidates’.
17. Duties of
political parties and candidates.
political party and every candidate shall promote the purpose of this
Proclamation to the voters, candidates, member and supporters and ensure that
it is known and respected by its members.
political party shall promote and support efforts to educate voters during election
political party and candidate shall
with this Proclamation;
leadership to its candidates, officials, representatives members and
supporters, to comply with this Proclamation electoral laws, and shall take appropriate
measures to ensure compliance.
political party and candidate shall have the duty to publicly state that everyone
has the right:
(a) To freely
express political views and opinions.
challenge and debate the political views and opinions of others.
(c) To publish
and distribute his own election and campaign materials.
lawfully display banners, bill boards and posters.
(e) To canvass
financial, material and other support for a party or
(f) To recruit
members for a party.
(g) To hold
(h) To attend
parties and candidates shall publicly declare their commitment to abide by the
proclamation and the codes of conduct therein.
political party and candidate shall publicly condemn any action that may harm
or undermine the conduct of free and fair elections.
issue raised by Professor Beyene was the establishment of
special electoral courts that deal with electoral complaints at various local
government levels. Considering the acute shortage of time to establish such
courts at all local governments in the remaining five months to the election,
in addition to the presence of other already established courts in line with
the proclamation, I have resorted to taking a look at the complaint lodging
provisions of the proclamation. Accordingly, Section 5, 24 deals with complaint
lodging. It states:
24 Lodging of
prejudice to the right to lodge complaints to election official, any one who
believes that this Proclamation is violated may submit complaints supported by
evidence to the joint council
prejudice to the power given to the board, the Joint Council may directly
investigate or establish an inquiry committee when it receives complaints of
violation of this proclamation.
candidates or concerned government organs, shall have the duty to cooperate
when the Joint Council itself or an inquiry committee appointed by it
undertakes an investigation on complaints of violation of this Proclamation.
lodged would then be handled by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, the
Joint Council to be made up of members of the ruling and opposition parties.
With all these three bodies capable of handling complaints, the importance of
establishing a fourth body seems to be farfetched.
The Professor also
stressed that the ruling party should hold discussion on various issues with
opposition political parties. This issue, as has been the case with other
points raised by him, is also dealt with by the Proclamation on the code of
conduct of political parties. Section 2, 16 of the proclamation, entitled
‘continued communications’, is one of the provisions dealing with this issue.
political party shall make every effort to continuously communicate with other
prejudice to provisions provided by election law, a joint council shall be
formed to serve as a forum for discussion of issues of common concern during an
electoral campaign or any other time.
Candidates may participate in the joint council as observers. They may lodge
their complaints to the joint council for decision.
officials shall not attend the meeting of the joint council. They may
participate without a right to vote in the meetings of the joint council if the
council passes a unanimous decision to this effect.
provision of the proclamation dealing with the need to communicate and work
together is section 4, 20 entitled ‘the establishment of joint council’. It
establishment of joint council
political parties shall establish a joint council in accordance with art 16 of
this code to enforce this law, to amicably resolve election matters in a manner
that promotes democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
prejudice to the forum of political parties established by the Board in
accordance with the electoral law, joint councils shall be established at all
levels ranging from the Federal to the constituencies.
further states that the organization of the council would encompass all
political parties registered to run for election
Organization of the joint council
joint council shall be organized as follows;
Joint Council shall be composed of political parties registered to run for
election at national level.
(b) The number
of representatives of each party shall be determined by directives to be issued
by the Joint Council.
of the joint council is also clearly stated as:
of the Joint Council:
Councils shall have the objective to
1. Serve as a
common forum to enable political parties discharge their constitutional duties
guided by the Proclamation to ensure that elections are free, fair, transparent,
democratic, credible and peaceful.
2. To serve as
a forum for dialogue, consultation and control on matters that may arise in
relation to the process or results of elections and generally all matters that
may arise in inter party relationships and amicably resolve problems in
accordance with election law and this Proclamation.
In what has become quite a trend in
recent years, especially in developing countries, elections have gone astray
from their perceived goal of ensuring peaceful transition of political power.
Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Thailand are just a few of the countries that
undergone post-election violence as our country did in 2005.
election-related violence strips people off the benefits of peaceful elections.
They block people’s rights to elect and be elected, deny people the opportunity
to place capable individuals who can tackle problems in local and national
councils, dwindle the development of a multi-party system at local and national
stages while promoting adverse conditions for the promotion of peace and
democracy. Although various nation states have different mechanisms of
contesting elections results, post-election violence gives no room for handling
grievances through the institutionalized route. Consequently, the ever present
questions of development, democracy and good governance that the rioters claim
to be raising get side-lined by one big brawl.
Therefore, it is
our duty as citizens to vigilantly stay guard for the peaceful completion of
the upcoming local election. We should make sure that we would be the
beneficiaries of a free, fair and peaceful competitive election which would
positively reinforce our on-going democratic and economic strides.
As has been
demonstrated in the above article, most if not all suggestions by Professor
Beyene Petros have been included in the Proclamation. As has been evident, the
provisions of the proclamation intend to promote free, fair and transparent
elections. Therefore, as rightly pointed out by Professor Beyene Petros,
signing it cannot be a sign of weakness or defeat but of understanding of the
need to work together to promote democracy.