By Fanuel Lakew
Asfaw Getachew Teshale Sebro
The year 1991 that marked the demise of the Dergue regime, serves as a watershed to the political pluralism that ensued in Ethiopia. Though there were some political parties and armed forces that were operating now in the open, now on the sly before 1991, they didn’t manage to get official licenses from the previous governments. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Constitution, which was adopted in 1994, guarantees citizens the right to organize and form as many political parties as they saw fit.
Regarding the Right to Vote and to be Elected, Article 38 of the Constitution stipulates: “1. Every citizen, without distinction on the basis of race, colour, nation, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or discrimination based on any other status shall have the right:
(a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot; guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
2. Subject to the general and special rules of membership of the organization concerned, the right of everyone to join political parties, trade unions, chambers of commerce, employer’s and professional associations is guaranteed.”
Following the conducive political platform set, various political parties have been forged based on national as well as ethnic lines. Currently, about 75 political parties, which are legally registered, have got licenses from the National Electoral Board.
However, few political parties are not that active participants in the election process, decisive for the intended national move forward. More often the parties mushroom during election seasons opening a room for the suspicion that their objective could be no other than assuming power. Their presence in the political landscape is almost minimal if not nil.
When approached by this reporter, regarding this issue, New Generation Party (NGP) President Asfaw Getachew said that actually the mushrooming of political parties that have no popular support could confuse the people not to have a clear political stance. On the other hand, other than projecting a good contestant mask, most political parties do not provide policy alternatives to the people. That is why the NGP was born.
He ascribed the popping up of various political parties on the political landscape during election seasons to simply grab the rein of power. It is no surprise to see such parties during election seasons.
He also noted that soon after election most parties will backpedal from participating in the national affairs with the ruling party and other stakeholders.
Furthermore, he attributed the problem to the absence of a well organized opposition political parties. The aforementioned parties heavily lean on handful individuals that established them. Most of such parties eye not mobilization of members and the public, he added. He noted that financial constraints are among the challenges the parties are facing.
Moreover, he said that the media, especially the public ones, do not give due coverage to the activities of these parties which are used as instrument to sensitize about their agendas and alternative policies.
Ethiopian Raey Party President Teshale Sebro on his part said that there are ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors that hamstrung the parties from being active. A few parties are not striving hard with their full capacity to assume power. They are lax in pushing their objective.
He also said that the lack of commitment and leadership ability is another problem within the parties and added few parties simply assume their parties as a ‘fail safe’ option to the public.
As an external factor, it is not easy to exercise political agendas and legal activities if a party does not get due attention from the ruling party, even if the Constitution guarantees the right to form and organize political parties. The aforementioned problem makes the remaining political parties dormant in the political landscape, he added.
Teshale voiced a complaint that the room for organizing meetings, convening with people, mobilizing membership, staging peaceful demonstration and deepening awareness on agendas is very narrow. Regarding media coverage most opposition parties enjoy, Teshome seconds Asfaw.
It is to be recalled that Professor Merga Bekana, National Electoral Board of Ethiopia Chairperson with a Rank of Minister, told journalists at a press conference held here recently that 75 national and regional political parties have been registered by the Board in accordance with the Registration of Political Parties Proclamation No 573/2008. These political parties are participating as individual parties or as part of a Front, a Coalition or a Union.
Sixty five of the political parties are ready to vie in the upcoming election in May, 2015 and have already taken their candidature symbols.
As per the Registration Proclamation, those political parties forming a Front or a Coalition still maintain their individual party status, and the Front or Coalition are formed with a common goal. In addition, political parties that have formed a Union will cease to function as individual parties and as one entity under it.
To redress the aforementioned hindrances, Teshale suggested that the ruling as well as the opposition parties have to sit down and discuss the matter to reach a consensus on this and other national affairs.
According to Professor Merga, all political parties are exercising their freedom of association in accordance with the FDRE Constitution to participate in peaceful and lawful election in a bid to try and assume political power.
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