Revisiting ICG, Issueless Ethiopian Political Parties


                                                Protracted Democratic Term


Adal Isaw

November 22, 2009


A protracted democratic term of political power is not something that’s uniquely imputed to certain countries with specific political, economic and social development.  Instead, it’s a common characteristic of democracy—born out of lasting issues that people deem very important—with respect to the security and development of their country and themselves.  People explicitly endorse for the strongest development and security programs to last longer by voting for a party or, coalition of parties that carry such programs.  Feasible and strongest development and security programs may last a decade or two or, may take several more years to bring tangible progress in the lives of many people and their country.  



The progress that many people choose to see in their own lives and country, gives the party with tangible development and security programs the edge—to consecutively win elections—extending its democratic term of political power accordingly.  Under the context of Western democracies, a protracted democratic term of political power is embraced without a grudge and no watching, observing and dictating entity will have any qualms whatsoever.  In cases of fledgling democracies of the “Third world”, however, such a protracted democratic term of political power is given an entirely different meaning—for no reason other than political duplicity and a tacitly conveyed self-interest.


It’s almost given that young democracies such as Ethiopia’s, invariably induce the proliferation of many parties—not necessarily for an inevitable bloody conflict, but for the rights of parties to participate and assert their vision on pertinent issues of security and development.  Their peaceful and democratic participation, it is assumed, is likely to affect a change for the better in the lives of their people and country.  


The proliferation of many parties is also induced by reasons other than young democracies.  Individuals with naive aspirations for political power would make it their goal to become leaders of their country—without asking themselves about the qualifications that leadership may require of them to lead a country of many—for example, Ethiopia.  These individuals feel as if it’s only they who are qualified and deserve to lead “their” country.  To their judgment, their PhDs, intellect and the time they have spent in the Western world give them the edge over  the native, to lead Ethiopia—a country in the “South” that may not require no more expertise or know-how than they have; they think. 


The same attitude holds true in the mindset of handful native Ethiopians—those who think that they’re better qualified and deserve to lead Ethiopia.  By virtue of a historical coincidence, these handful native Ethiopians, suddenly discover themselves as front and center participants of a democratization process that grant them the freedom not only to aspire, but also to get into action in a hurry to swiftly pounce over to the pedestal of a political power.  In both cases, these individuals are primarily bowed to garner political power to self-help rather than help to empower the powerless.   Consequently, what should have been done prior to the assumption of a political power becomes irrelevant, and individuals with such barefooted aspirations start disorganized on a personal level to become members of a haphazardly build association of loonies. 


The association of individuals into a group, each fancying for ultimate political power without self-restraining discipline and a guiding program becomes, a house of horror built with dry fodder to withstand a persistent political fire from, a highly organized and disciplined opposing party.  Without an ironclad discipline; without a program and grasp of the bare minimum knowledge of politicking; these types of haphazardly built associations become the political punching bags that time bites to death unforgivingly.  If there is any comfort in this entire almost laughable political endeavor that such individuals pursue, it is the fact that it’s not a peculiarity to asinine Ethiopian politicians.  The asinine politicians of our beloved country even have their counterparts here in America—where learning comes with the privilege to access more knowledge from the abundant resources that one can garner by the tireless movement of his fingers. 


Nonetheless, it is one thing to aspire for the goodness of a people and country and completely another to become strong enough an association of individuals to be the winning party to lead a country of many.   Without a plain and simple program that can garner vote from the majority of the people, and, without an organization that’s built on multilayer solid foundation of character, commitment and knowledge—based on hardcore discipline—no party will ever get to lead itself let alone a country of many, such as ours. 


Devoid of a strong organization and a program that addresses the pertinent issues of security and development to the satisfaction of many people, the political association of individuals becomes absolutely issueless as time lapses.  Issues with relevant nature are needed, and of course, some issues are preferred by the majority of the people over other issues for their importance.  But finally, the parties that can articulate issues of concern to the satisfaction of many blocks of people survive—to live another day—while other parties wither away with their irrelevant whining political issues for eternity.  Before they do though, these said parties will do everything in their capacity to stay alive—for instance, by taking their “case” to a foreign entity and native elders for “resolve,” and especially, by arguing for term limit—to curtail the duration of a democratic political term of the strongest party.  In other words, after failing to build a strong and disciplined organization with cogent program to unseat the strongest party, such parties resort into making “it’s now my turn” political argument—to stay noticed over their graves.  And by way of common self-interest, they’re not alone to resort to such irrational and baseless argument.


Strongest parties with populist national issues tend to aggravate foreign self-interested entities to have qualms that grow into serious discontent.  Their serious discontent may include from the filing of a baseless report to wanting the strongest party out.  The ICG report is the perfect example for not hiding its discontent about EPRDF and also for courting the “it’s now my turn” crowd in the open in the name of “genuine multi-party system.” 


ICG has brazen political interest and it doesn’t like the reigning strongest party’s (EPRDF) insistence not to change its programs of democratization and development to its liking.   ICG wants a complete overhaul in the political living arrangement of Ethiopia; it wants to deprive nations and nationalities from self-governing themselves as they see it fit; it advocates for auctioning Ethiopia’s land; and it propagates for those with fervent hope for power to formulate the “genuine multi party system of Ethiopia.”  All of these critical “inputs” come while ICG is appreciative and contently lives, fundamentally, under one party system.


 It has been almost five years since EPRDF fairly and squarely won the last Parliamentary Election—certified by almost all of the observers including the Carter Center.  The likelihood of EPRDF winning in this upcoming Parliamentary Election of 2010 has given ICG and the haphazardly organized individuals, reason to come up with an issue to delegitimize the projected democratic win of EPRDF.  To this end, they have coined a “clever” phrase –“rigid grip on power.”


ICG is not that asinine not to know about the existence of an instance in democracy, where a party or coalition of parties of a given country can win election after election for decades.  Of curse, under the context of Western democracies where interests are intricately intertwined synergically, a protracted democratic power is officially embraced without a grudge and no watching, observing and dictating entity like ICG will have any qualms whatsoever.  In cases of fledgling democracies of the “Third world” such as Ethiopia’s, where projected future interests favor the native more so than it favor others, however, such a protracted democratic term of political power is given an entirely different meaning—for no reason other than political duplicity and a tacitly conveyed self-interest.


Just recently, the Liberal Democratic Party— a party that ruled Japan for a protracted democratic term of political power, lost an election on August 30, 2009.  The loss was only the second by a party that has traditionally championed big business and conservative interests since its inception in 1955.  The only other time it was out of power was for less than 11 months in 1993-1994, and that loss was brought by a coalition of several parties that quickly collapsed.


 It took the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan over fifty years to carry out its programs by convincing the majority of Japanese to cast their vote time again in its favor.  This largest ever Japanese party held a protracted democratic term of political power for one great reason; it oversaw Japan’s amazing recovery from its abyss after WWII to its development into an economic superpower.  The key to the success of the Liberal Democratic Party resided in its aptness and craftiness to pull Japan out of its miserable economic and social predicament that it found itself after WWII.  And the recovery that made Japan what it is today took over five decades and no watching, observing and dictating entity have any qualms whatsoever.


Ethiopia’s effort to pull itself out of backwardness mirrors Japan’s arduous work; except the challenges faced by Ethiopia are more daunting than the challenges faced by Japan after WWII.  EPRDF is adept, brilliant, mature, and exceptionally suited to protect and develop Ethiopia into its inevitable destiny of prominence.  For this pivotal reason, economic development of the kind that we are witnessing in our country today requires a stable environment and uninterrupted arduous work.  Ethiopia needs decades of uninterrupted development, and, if it requires the protracted political power of EPRDF, let it be, provided that fair and free election preceded each and every democratic term.