Ethiopia: Political Parties’ Dialogue to Strengthen Democratic Culture

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Ethiopian political parties, taking part in the ongoing national dialogue, hoped that the initiative the ruling party taken to have a political negotiation and dialogue could widen the political space and strengthen the country’s democratic culture.

Representatives of competent political parties, who opted to have dialogues and negotiations with the ruling party without any outside moderator, told The Ethiopian Herald that the accord is one step forward in building participatory democracy and political pluralism in the country.

According to Head of Party’s Affairs of the Ethiopian New Generation Party, Alemayehu Deneke, the ruling party has taken the initiative and made a national call to have dialogues with all opposition political parties in connection to political, economic and social affairs of the country.

The ruling party opens the stage for 21 political parties to bring their interests on how the negotiation would be, he said, adding that “we have forwarded our interest based on our own perspective and the next step will be taking part in the coming dialogues.”

In fact, EPRDF opened a room to opposition political parties to sit for the negotiations either in coalition, special dealing or in group with those of the same interests, he added.

Previously, there were complaints in connection with lack of transparency and absence of open discussion between the ruling party and other political parties about elections and other national agendas that led to misunderstandings, he emphasized .

He added: “Some members of our party have been detained. That was due to the problems in the ruling party in creating such transparency and dialogue on election conducts. However, taking lessons from its past experiences, the ruling party is now willing to have discussion with all political parties, which is a good step to develop multiparty democracy.”

“The dialogue that we held so far were democratic. We believe that this negotiation will create good atmosphere to improve our regulations that would bear fruits to strengthen democratic situations and enhance the political space. We don’t want to continue as usual but to be actors of democracy and development in the country,” Alemayohu underlined.

President of All Ethiopian National Movement Mesafint Shiferaw for his part said it is time for all political parties to come together and discuss every problem the nation face and set solutions together, which the country lacks so far.

Despite the need of the country and the people for peaceful negotiations and dialogue among political parties, a few parties have come up with the title of leading negotiator, which is insignificant at this juncture when the ruling party determined to have open dialogues voiding its former political exclusion, Mesafint said.

“The consultation will bring improvements in the structure of the national electoral board, the electoral codes and in the systemic political settings in controlling all seats in the parliament.”

The past discussions on procedure and negotiator were not as such important to take such a long time but that was due to the misunderstanding among the political parties, Mesafint said, adding that the parties invited to the dialogue are all legitimate. “So, why do we need to have external moderator. An outsider may be needed to negotiate guerrilla fighters or insurgent warriors to come to peaceful negotiations.”

EPRDF Office Head Shiferaw Shigute also seconded Mesafint’s argument. He said: “The forum is equal for all legitimate political parties and we can negotiate freely without an outside moderator as we are brothers of the same destiny with different agendas.”

Ethiopian Federal Democratic Forum (MEDREK) Chairperson Prof. Beyene Petros admitted the case that his party needs to get the position of leading negotiator in the national dialogue for the party has experiences in this regard which he said even caused the changing of laws and regulations. MEDREK will not be taking part in the forums other than on special issues with the ruling party, he said.

However, Alemayohu said: “Some parties had left the political consultation other than the two forums in the initial time. No one obliged them to leave out. They leave due to their egoism. Among the 21 political parties invited, no party would either be a leader or a follower.”

Alemayehu further went on to say that the affairs of New Generation Party could not be the affairs of MEDREK or Blue Party and the reciprocity. As to him, that is not expected from parties working for the promotion of democracy.

It is obvious that tolerance is so important among political parties to enhance democracy in developing countries like Ethiopia.

Professor of Sustainable Economic Development at Dominican University Asayehgn Desta for his part emphasized that Ethiopia needs a multiparty democracy to end the crushing impact of corruption and ensure democracy.

In an article he published in The Conversation, he emphasized that certain changes need to be made to fight corruption. Civic organizations, alternative parties and opposition groups need to be involved in political dialogues.

It is a crystal clear that the already started political parties national dialogue would widen political space, promote democracy and strengthen multiparty system in the country, as Prof. Asayehgn Argued.

Political parties should further strengthen their culture of solving problems through dialogues and negotiations; thereby, strengthening the federal and multiparty system that gives an equal playing field to all citizens.

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