Ethiopia: Numbers don't lie –

by Zelalem
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn File Photo

To Your Excellency, Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime minister of Ethiopia

Your Excellency,

Few months ago, I heard you saying “the government [Ethiopian] wants to reform an electoral system which has excluded the opposition.”  You also claimed that your collision party, EPRDF has received 51% of the overall votes in all 9 states (Kilil). If you had only 51% of the overall vote, why we didn’t see some opposition members sitting in the parliament after the last election? Your intention of “…reforming the electoral system so the voices of those who are not represented can also be heard in the parliament” looks at least sarcastic if not joke. No doubt, the voices of those who are not in the parliament now would have been heard there if they had opportunity to convert the remaining 49% in winning spree, given fair and square environment to compete. According to your statement, “Because of this electoral system 51 percent of the overall vote is enough to win across the board.”  I remember that you were standing next to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel who was listening.  Believe me or not, I was wondering what she was thinking when hearing these statements. She knows how difficult winning is and what 51% means as she had a slim majority in her Bundestag of Germany (a national German’s parliament). In the 2013 national election, Chancellor Merkel’s sister parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, won 311(49.4%) of the 630 parliament’s seats with 45.3% of the popular vote. Eventually, the Chancellor has to find a partner party since she was short of majority seats by her own party. If the elections are fair and square, with binary outcomes such that you win or lose (assuming existence of some opposing parties to compete), the percentage of your parliament seats shouldn’t be far from the percentage of the popular votes your party won.  As the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the percentages of the popular votes shouldn’t be far from the percentage of the parliament seats. I am not taking it lightly when I say the percentage of seats you won cannot be far from the percentage of the popular vote you claim; I really meant mathematically impossible.

Your Excellency,

As you know, numbers don’t lie. Unlike politics, you can’t twist numbers, change or amend the outcomes. For any given input, there is output that is pretty much known. Before completing your Bachelor in Civil Engineering at AAU, I assumed that you had at least a course in probability (there was before); and if that is the case, I hate to preach the choir about probability. The probability of receiving 100 % of the seats in Ethiopian parliament with 51% popular vote is next to zero; unless the election is rigged, unfair or no opposition showed up in almost all 547 districts of representative. To make things very simple, if you had 51% popular vote on the average, the probability of your winning a seat in any of the 547 districts of representative is 0.51, and the probability of losing a seat is 0.49. That said, the probability of winning all 547 seats of the House of People Representatives is the same as multiplying 0.51 by itself 547 times or equivalently, (0.51)547  ≈ 0, a very small number. To make it much understandable, let me take in to consideration, a higher probability of winning a district, say 90% of the popular vote; however, sweeping all the parliamentary seats is impossible. The probability of winning all is the same as multiplying 0.9 by itself 547 times or in mathematical term, (0.9)547 = 0.00000000000000000000000009347, a very small chance. Let me put it this way; winning the American Powerball jackpot lottery back-to-back for three times has approximately the same odds of winning all the parliamentary seats in Ethiopia with 90% chance of winning a seat (popular votes).  Winning all seats can happen only if your government manipulates the boundaries (gerrymandering) of all the 547 districts of the country by favoring your desired outcome. I think you got the idea. For the sake of argument, let me think of a scenario where there was no opposing party in half of the districts. That is a possible scenario in a country where political opponents have difficulties to campaign freely or have limitation on needed resources. Under such scenario, let us say you were the sole political entity to campaign around and win half seats without opposition and that is about 273 seats. Similarly, let us agree the remaining half seats were allocated after fierce but fair competition between you and the oppositions. If I take your words on the popular votes at 51% for EPRDF and allies, then you are expected to win another 140 seats, about 413 seats altogether.  That left about 133 seats for opposition and where is it?  EPRDF’s attempt to convince the world on sweeping all seats of the parliament with 51% popular votes is an absolute lie; but, numbers never lie. Legitimately, the probability of achieving 100% parliamentary seats is very hard in not impossible. Really impossible! Even by relaxing the chance of winning the popular votes to 90%, the probability of sweeping the 273 seats (half the parliament) is not much better than zero, with actual probability of only 0.0000000000003223. To make comparison, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot is 1 in 292 million (the probability of winning the Powerball is 0.000000003425); winning the lottery has about ten thousand times better chance than sweeping the 273 (half of all) seats for EPRDF. Mathematically, it is not as easy as usual politics. A statement that says “we had 100% of the parliamentary seats with 51% of the popular votes” is difficult to support mathematically. Especially, in a place where the election was far from fairness, which as full of intimidations and jam-packed with harassments, this statement has no merit. This should be the fact on the ground as numbers never lie.

Prime Minister Hailemariam,

I am not politician nor I would like to be one; I am a math junkie who has a problem to sit down and watch when numbers are twisted and misused to gain political scores. Yes, politician love to use numbers to misinterpret outcomes and show rosy results and that is fine. But, I have never seen numbers being twisted to the extent you contradicted yourself in a single event.  I don’t understand why you wanted to reform the current electoral system that we haven’t gotten a chance to test. Frankly speaking, on the paper, I don’t even see a problem with the current electoral system, which is pretty much consistent with the idea of “majority rule”, a fair system if minorities have a room to exercise their constitutional rights. The German Chancellor, who stood next to you, was elected to become a Chancellor based on a system that embraces “majority rule”. In Ethiopia, the problem is not the electoral system; the problem is the systematic process instituted just to exclude all others who are against your political philosophy. Before boarding the EPRDF’s wagon late in the game, I believe you took your time to analyze and study the good, the bad and the ugly of this party. You never dragged into the party as adolescent, when adventure overtakes a rational thinking nor as a “cool thing” that worthwhile to join pressured by friends. I think you took your time by slicing and dicing the ups and the downs of being part of such political crowds. If you joined the crowd, with the goal of doing the right thing whenever you get a chance, that day has been arrived long ago! Although I am far away from Ethiopia, I have witnessed through time that the EPRDF is intolerant with thin-skinned senior leaders. Since its inception, your front has never been known as open and inclusive, rather it known to hunt down and destroy its adversaries with no room for alternative idea. The deep-rooted belief of “my way or the highway” may take us back to Tigray, the place where hundreds of other Ethiopians were slaughtered because either they were different or they were against ethnocentrism ideology of the front. That was then and I sure we are willing to forget and forgive if things go the right way. You are now in the driver’s seat and you are expected to change the “old boys’ club” and maneuver the country away from the systematic oppression and hidden inequality. Save the people from favoritism, nepotism and the sick practice that reveals some as more equals than others in their own country! Be smart and win the people’s heart by peaceful means; look around and learn from the past. Perhaps, I suggest you go back to the drawing board and try to undo what has been done in 2015 election, a fair and square election that encompasses all. You need to invite fellow Ethiopian with open arms to let them participate in the country’s political process today, not tomorrow. Ethiopia has to be for all Ethiopian, a land for all her citizens, with full right to reside anywhere in the country, with the right to coexist peacefully respecting each other. That is a birth right that cannot be negotiated! Period!! I am sure you know how unfair the past election was, but it is up to you to correct the future. I don’t want to see the country slowly or abruptly sliding into chaos, violence and civil unrest. Believe it or not, no one will come out of that as a winner, rather all lose. It doesn’t take an aerospace engineer to understand that violence is a bad game that has no winner. We witnessed what has happened to other nations in Africa, Mideast and Europe; we have seen nations that are languishing in wars with no end in sight. When it comes to our, enough is enough! We were busy fighting each other for hundreds of years, as a result, we have very little to show the world as compared to our existence on the land. If you realize, our history has been war and violence, artifacts and civilization erected by a predecessor destroyed and eradicated by incoming powerful successor.

It is up to you, the prime minister of the country to change course and calm the anger of the people.  There has been too much of greed taking over the country, there are too much of selfishness and corruption that has been blown up under EPRDF and on your watch. The country has become a land of the selected few, who have the means to send their children abroad for primary schooling whereas; millions of others work harder in the same country just to get by. Today, many Ethiopian are left out or left behind as year-to-year dependent of foreign aids. I think we can do better! We lost our pride then now our humanity. Thanks to the EPRDF for skewing the wealth distribution towards few elites, favoring its cronies and ignoring the vast majority. That has to change today.

Prime Minister Hailemariam,

Your political organization alone has been in power for the past 25 years, now it is time to try something new. Change has to come to Ethiopia without killing more and without killing each other. The people have suffered a lot with more poverty today than it has been 25 years ago. As it has many milliners if not billionaires, Ethiopia also has more people without basic needs now than ever before.  The Gross Domestic Product growth that you are bragging about day-in and day-out is a rosy picture that looks nice from distance. But, who is growing, who is benefiting?  And who is losing? Please take your time to look around and answer them for yourself. Nowadays, millions of Ethiopians are spectators (YEBEYI TEMELKACH) of the few others. Millions have difficulties to survive in a place they were born; others chose to take their chance with the Mediterranean sharks, although getting to the sea is not an easy task. Whether we like it or not, the fate of this country is determined by its people and you have a chance to facilitate that now by starting a peaceful transition of power, which belongs to the people of Ethiopia. It is up to you to make it or break it, but the latter has a devastating consequences. The choice is yours, either you follow the footsteps of your predecessor and drag the country into a sea of violence or you do the right thing and make Ethiopia a shining city on the hill. If Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia can do it so can you! I think Americans appreciate George Washington not because of his first presidency, rather for his will to transfer power without a single bullet. It is not too late be the first George Washington of Ethiopia!!!!

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