Election 2005


Published: April 28, 2005

Judging from events thus far, when everything is said and done, this Ethiopian election of 2005 will perhaps be remembered as the boldest experiment in democracy in the country’s History. If the elections are done in pure transparency and fairness with no intimidation and dirty tricks by the ruling party or anyone else, this event will assume even more prominence as a watershed event in the History of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. However, despite the seemingly satisfactory progress so far, it is too early to predict how events will turn out to be and how far EPRDF’s new found embracing of experimentation in democratic governance will go.

As 25 million Ethiopians prepare to vote for this Historical election, one hopes that each party is judged by its track records and – going forward – by its vision for dealing with the major issues facing the country such as food security, democracy, poverty reduction, the Eritrean question, the land tenure, population growth and the AIDS/HIV pandemic. The past 13 years have provided a platform where the action of the ruling party in addressing these major problems of the 70+ million people of Ethiopia was observed and studied. In unsymmetrical fashion, the campaigns of the past few months and – more importantly – the TV debates have given Ethiopians an opportunity to hear the vision espoused by the opposition parties in addressing the immense challenges the country faces. Clearly there are distinct differences in the visions espoused by the opposition on one hand and the ruling party on the other hand. More importantly, however, there are more distinct and crucial differences in the track records of EPRDF and the opposition.

The past 13 years have been a very remarkable transition time for the ruling party, EPRDF. While most Ethiopians feared that the ascent of TPLF/EPRDF to power in 1991 would bring the Ethiopian nation to brinks of disaster and war, to our relief and to EPRDF’s credit, the country had managed to limp through these years with some promises of hope. To EPRDF’s credit, again, there have been some noticeable positive developments in the country’s infrastructure such as roads, water and electric supply, education and health. However, the ethnic relationships in this country of more than 70 linguistic groups have gone sour with future potentials for major ethnic conflicts openly encouraged and cultivated by the ethnic-based regionalism which has become the cornerstone of EPRDF idealogy and policy. The event of the Ethiopia-Eritrea War of May 1998 – June 2000 where hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans lost their lives with the country achieving neither lasting peace nor any access to the sea, further, exposed the major weakness of EPRDF – its inability to win public trust in promoting the country’s strategic interests.

The opposition has not been tested – yet - in real terms how it can deal with these issues of immense importance. It has been criticized for lacking consistency and exposure to the wider Ethiopian segment. Where economic and political power is amassed by the ruling party, the inability to have a presence in all corners of the country can not be held against the opposition as a major weakness. At worst, at least at the beginning, the opposition could be criticized rightfully for lacking clear, concise and defining message that resonates well with Ethiopians of all walks of life and ethnic group. In the past few months, however, the opposition has pulled itself by its boot-straps and clearly made remarkable progress in forging a unified front of Ethiopians of varied background.

In the ideal world, the ideal party we would like to see will be a party that continues and further improves the healthy economic activity that is seen around the country at this time and – at the same time – addresses, for once and all, the pressing security issue with Eritrea in a manner that protects Ethiopia’s interest and also reverse the ethnic-based regionalism in favor of a more rational federation that allows Ethiopians to work and prosper in any area of their choice. For this to happen, we feel the EPRDF is handicapped by its own choices as seen in the past 13 years. We, therefore, endorse the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) as the party that has the best promise of delivering hope, prosperity and security to the Ethiopian people.

MediaETHIOPIA @2005