Unrest: Ethiopia at a Crossroads

by Zelalem


On the surface, Ethiopia’s government appears to be representative. The ruling coalition — the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) — consists of four political parties. Each represents a different region and ethnic base, with its own factions in the federal legislature and regional state councils.

Those four parties — the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), along with EPRDF officials without a party designation — won 500 of 547 seats in the House of People’s Representatives in the most recent national election, in 2015. Candidates in allied parties won an additional 46 seats in that election, and a candidate without a party affiliation won the last seat.

Within the EPRDF, parliamentarians from the OPDO hold the most seats — 180, followed by the ANDM, with 138 seats, and the SEPDM, with 123 seats. The TPLF holds 38 seats.

Both the president and the newly minted prime minister are Oromo, as are many ministers. And Ethiopia’s constitution, adopted in 1995, provides broad power to the House of People’s Representatives, the prime minister and his council.

But the distribution of representatives belies the real power of the TPLF, which, despite representing a minority ethnic group and holding just 7 percent of seats in the House of People’s Representatives, dominates Ethiopia’s political landscape.

This has resulted in what Jawar Mohammed, the executive director of the Oromia Media Network, a news organization based in Minneapolis, in the United States, called “symbolic power” for the Oromo people. “Oromos are nowhere in the federal government — even those who are holding positions have no real power,” Mohammed told VOA.

The TPLF created the EPRDF coalition in the late 1980s as a means to expand their influence beyond the Tigray region. They established the coalition’s parties and selected their members.

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