Challenge of the Opposition in the 2010 Elections – Zerihun Tesfaye

February 9th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Articles with varying opinions on the coming elections have been posted for the purpose of discussions by several authors in the recent past. For some reason and I say to my dismay, these write ups neither attracted sufficient responses nor helped initiate follow ups.

Some among the opposition in the Diaspora have mentioned a boycott or non participation as an alternative. Boycott however like any other action, needs a concerted and organized effort, if a beneficial outcome is desired. A mere non involvement by individual parties without organizing the people for such ‘in action’ is not a boycott; it is, instead, an abandonment of responsibility.

Many in the opposition believe the results of the upcoming elections have already been decided by the ruling group, and that, it will declare itself the winner in an election that is not going to be free or fair.

In my opinion with proper precautionary steps, vigilance on the part of the populace and the opposition and sufficient neutral observers, as was done in 2005, even an election that is neither free nor fair can be won decisively at some important localities including cities, regions . This outcome is not only possible, but if it comes to fruition will be a great moral victory to the people’s struggle and will create a fertile ground upon which future struggles could be conducted.

The experience of the 2005 national elections has proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the EPRDF could be defeated in a free and fair election. The experience of this same election also proves that winning elections and enforcing the results of such elections in countries like Ethiopia are two different things. In as much as enforcing results of an election in societies where there is institutional independence by election boards and the judicial system is a given, in repressive societies it requires the organizational strength and popular backing of the population at large to enforce results.

Parties or organizations that have chosen the route of peaceful struggle participate in elections as part of the general struggle and not as a ritual they participate every few years. In fact, those who participate in the peaceful struggle do realize that political and organizational work done in the interim is more important in solidifying the organization and its mass support than the work done in actual elections. It is during these election periods that they can gauge the work they have done up to that point and sum up their experience to better prepare themselves for future political and organizational work.

However, it needs to be noted that just because the opposition groups choose the route of peaceful struggle does not mean that the ruling group would make it conducive for them to do so. As has been evident in Ethiopia in the years since the 2005 elections, the EPRDF has been methodically pursuing a two pronged approach to on one hand attempt to disorganize and marginalize the opposition while simultaneously strengthening its organization in its desire to maintain its monopoly of power.

As it relates to the opposition, the EPRDF uses all weapons in its arsenal, from the courts to federal police to vigilante cadres and agents to split organizations as happened with ONC; jail leading party members on trumped-up charges as was the case with Bekelle Jirata of OFDM; re- arrest Birtukan Mideksa, leader of a new and emerging party, on the lame excuse that she denied her being released on a governmental pardon; delay or deny permits to conduct public meetings; sit for months on applications for the legal registration of organizations by the electoral board, as was the case with ARENA, and enact repressive laws limiting the role of NGO’s including the repressive press law and others that could be sited as potent examples of this approach.

As it relates to its own organization, the EPRDF has been making a concerted effort in the past four and half years to build up strength to further consolidate its hold on power. From a membership of less than 600,000 in 2005 it has now grown to 4,000,000 ‘members’. In the name of regeneration /tehadiso it conducted two to three day ‘voluntary’ conferences for two years essentially bribing the populace at large, in the guise of daily allowance for attending these ‘voluntary’ conferences’. These daily allowances in some instances were equivalent to a two-week pay to some of the attendees.

Some of the youth recruited during these sessions were organized into ‘independent’ small enterprises that are to be given work contracts by government decree from private enterprise. (The creation of these ‘enterprises’ reminds one of the disastrous ‘great leap forward’ garage factories [smelting pots, & pans that was supposed to catapult China into the Industrial age set up by the Chinese that created havoc during the 1950s’.)

To cover more ground it went into a recruiting frenzy in the high schools and colleges of the country, but mainly in the capital for members with the incentive of immediate lucrative jobs upon graduation. One can see how enticing this could be in a city where unemployment hovers around 40-45%.

Because of all of the above events many are of the opinion that EPRDFs wining of the 2010 election is a foregone conclusion. Most base their conclusion (in addition to all the coercive powers that the incumbent possesses) on the fact the Election Board and other institutions are not neutral and are indeed used in the service of EPRDF. They contend that this fact alone makes the election a lost case, forgetting that with proper precautionary steps, vigilance on the part of the populace and the opposition and sufficient neutral observers, as was done in 2005, an election that is neither free nor fair can be won decisively at some important localities.

In fact what all the above show is that peaceful struggle is arduous, not risk free, complicated and requires adeptness and commitment from those engaged in such struggle to untangle the roadblocks being erected by the ruling group. It needs to be abundantly clear from past experience that the accent on peaceful struggle is mainly on the struggle component.

In all fairness it has to be acknowledged that the opposition groups sometimes seem to equate peaceful struggle strictly with legal struggle and forget to fight for their legal rights when the ruling party denies or obstructs the exercise of such rights. For example it is proper and correct to ask the authorities to have permits for venues, but if the authorities do not cooperate, it is incumbent upon the opposition to somehow conduct its event with or without their blessing as long as it is done peacefully. It goes without saying that this might bring the wrath of the authorities, but it is the price that needs to be paid in order to advance the struggle.

It is within this context then that I would like to talk about the coming elections, which are only a few months away, and the possibility and the need for the opposition to win parliamentary elections in some localities particularly in Addis Ababa. .

Whether the opposition won the national elections in 2005, winning the majority of the seats for the national parliament, is not something all agree upon. However, that the ruling EPRDF including its then ‘popular’ mayor Arkebe of Addis Ababa suffered a humiliating defeat when the opposition CUD swept all but one of the seats for the local council and for representation of Addis Ababans in the national parliament was an acknowledged fact by all.

The EPRDF having learned from its defeat in 2005 has decided that the 2010 election will not include elections for the administration of the city, but rather has limited it to parliamentary representation. The opposition should not give in to the manipulations of the ruling party. It instead should use this insidious maneuver by the regime to its advantage. The opposition can participate and win to represent Addis Ababans in the national parliament as a prelude to wresting the city administration when elections are held in two years time.

It is important to remember that in 2005 elections the unique circumstances of Addis Ababa made it difficult for the regime to deny and or obstruct election results as it did in other places, and despite what has transpired in the past four years this still holds true.

Meles and his gang clearly understood this from the get go; that to lose Addis Ababa to the opposition was in fact to lose the election as a whole, for indeed in a certain sense, Addis Ababa is Ethiopia. That was why they did everything within their power to dissuade the opposition from assuming the offices they won.

However, most of the leaders of the opposition, being of the 60’s generation may have reminded themselves of the advisory caution that was used by progressive students to not wrongly equate Addis Ababa with Ethiopia and Addis Ababans with Ethiopians, for the rallying cry in those days was ‘land to the tiller’.

Today, though under the given conditions, it would not be considered wrong to suggest winning elections and effecting possible changes in Addis is tantamount to winning all over Ethiopia for Addis Ababa is indeed in a certain sense Ethiopia.

What I mean by this is very simple. Addis Ababa is the largest city in the country where over 40% of the country’s urban population resides. Addis Ababa is home to virtually all the different ethnic groups in the country. Addis Ababa is the seat of the national government, headquarters of the African Union and home to all the foreign embassies in the country. Addis Ababa also boasts the highest concentration of the educated class in the country and within its immediate environs has the highest concentration of industry in the country. It is all these factors which weigh heavily in its favor, that make me say that Addis Ababa is Ethiopia, and winning an election to represent Addis is almost tantamount to winning a national election to represent the people of Ethiopia.

As fractured and as ineffective the opposition might seem, in a free and fair election EPRDF will definitely lose in the national elections to be held in May 2010.It is also my contention that in unfair and a not so free election the opposition can still win the seats allocated for Addis Ababa and other metropolitan localities, for the disconnect between the EPRDF government and the Ethiopian people is wider today than was five years ago, despite all the efforts made by the ruling group to cow and or buy-off sectors of the population with its ill gotten riches from home and abroad.

The fact that the opposition needs to come up with a united stand, a front for action is not questionable or in doubt by anyone. That makes the need for sober and immediate discussion about the coming elections of paramount importance.

  1. Diabab Urgessa
    | #1

    There can never be any justification whatsoever for taking part in farce elections. Boycotting the elecctions will deny the facist and racist weyanne regime any cover of legitimaccy and induce the population for the decisive struggle against the fascist regime.

  2. Derese
    | #2

    Very good article. I like your analysis of the opposition; peaceful struggle, and requesting approval from the Woyane administration. I also like your idea of ‘ winning a not free and a not fair’ election. I wish you elaborate that further. May be you do that in the future.
    You said ‘whether the opposition won the national election…’. Only Woyane and the Carter Center claim that CUD plus UEDF didn’t win the election. All others agree with the fact.
    Another point I disagree with what you said: You claim Winning the Addis representation and forming the ‘Addis Block’ will help win the future election in Addis. How is that? Explanation is necessary here. I can only see the use of the ‘Addis Block’ as a potential tool for future boycott or ‘walk out’ of the procedeening in Parliament as a group.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    በኢትዮጵያ ዉስጥ ከ 48 በላይ ብሄራዊ እና ክልላዊ የ ፖለቲካ ቡድኖች አሉ (ስልጣን ላይ ያለዉን አምባገነን ቡድን ጨምሮ ማለት ነው)። እነዚህ ቡድኖች የሚሰሩት ለራሳቸው የስልጣን ጥቅም እንጅ ለኢትዮጵያ ድሃ ህዝብ የሚሰሩ አይመስልም። ምክንያቱም ተቃዋሚወች እራሳቸው አንድ ወጥ የሆነ እና ቑሚ አላማ የያዙ አይመስሉም። ታዳ እንደት ተደርጎ ይሆን አላማን ለህዝብ በግልጽ አሳዉቆ በአንድ አቑም ጸንቶ ያለዉን መንግስት በፊትለፊት ክርክር አፉን አሲዞ በመርታት ድልን መቀዳጀት የሚቻለው። አይመስለኝም። አጠራጣሪ ነው።

    በአገራችን የአዛዉንቶች የቀድሞ አባባል ” ሴት ከበዛ ጎመን ጠነዛ ” አይነት ነገር ማለት ነው። ኢትዮጵያ በ21ኛው የዘመናዊ ክ/ዘመንም ሳይቀር አዉነተኛ እና ለህዝብ የቆመ፡ በህዝብ ፍቃድ ከስልጣኑ ሊወገድ የሚችል እና ደሞክራሲን በወሬ ሳይሆን በተግባር ለህዝብ የሚያሳይ መሪ ማግኘት አለመቻሏ እጅግ በጣም የሚያሳዝን እና ልብ የሚሰብር ሁኔታ ነው። ምንጊዜም የህልም ኑሮ መኖሩስ ………..???????????????????????? ተተንትኖ አያልቅም………..ዪቅር……ዪቅር….

  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    The article’s argument about winning some areas might be plausible, but we don’t see any serious effort on the part of the opposition parties where some like Eng. Hailu haven’t even decided to run yet and the others are not saying for sure. On top of this I am not sure if the trauma of 2005 has left the public.

  5. Melkamu
    | #5

    Great! I believe this is Zerihun of “Addis neger”- which was our voice. Zerish! I alos belive that a united front taken by the opposition can and will defeat the ruling EPRDF overwhelmingly. The thing is it needs the guts of the oppsition to do this and face any of the obstacles that may come on the road. If they can do this, and not play into the maneuvring of Meles as did Lidetu and Hailu, something great and unexpected might happen following the election.

  6. Melkamu
    | #6

    Great! I believe this is Zerihun of “Addis neger”- which was our voice. Zerish! I also believe that a united front taken by the opposition can and will defeat the ruling EPRDF overwhelmingly. The thing is it needs the guts of the oppsition to do this and face any of the obstacles that may come on the road. If they can do this, and not play into the maneuvring of Meles as did Lidetu and Hailu, something great and unexpected might happen following the election

  7. aha!
    | #7

    Excellent assessment. It calls for plan B, if the “Code of Conduct Agrements and 8-point pre-conditions are not implementd. The major effort is taking over the Government, the city government will be a consequence of the opposition party in power. The question is should it be administered by appointment or by election? However, if TPLF/eprdf wins it is dejavu, all over again, where an appointment seves the narrow ethnic agenda of TPLF/eprdf regime.

  8. Birhanu T.
    | #8

    The article seems to suggest that it’s possible to win in the coming elections,but outside of generality doesn’t as such say how this could be achieved under the repressive situation that obtains in the country.The other issue is how does winning Addis translate into winning the whole country?

  9. aha!
    | #9

    Furthermore, what is miscalculated by the Diaspora elites is the deep seated ethnic and seccssionist politics by TPLF and EPLF libration movements of the Socialistic revolution that took the path of the oppression of the nationalities by pre-colonial Ethiopian regime as opposed to those soocialistic movements that engaged the Emperor Haile Sellasie’s regime and later the Dergue regime for class struggle in terms of land reform between land lords and tenants, class struggle between emloyer and employees, between royalists and the citizens in terms of governance, I presume. What prevailed is the form governance of Separate but equal of nine or 12 zones that are demarcated along language lines, rather than the original states that muddies the water and works the grain for Unity, Territorial Integrity and Sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, far more insidous than the socialistic revolution, creating havoc on the individual freedom to have to own private property anywhere in Ethiopia and the lingering conflict among smaller ethnic groups for grazing, water resources and bigger ethnic groups over boundries and the strangle hold of the ppolitical, economic freedom by TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises. What is intriguing is that this political model is mirror imaged by Tigrai Harena/fdd/efdr, which does not endorse the national agenda.

    Beyond the conditions for fair and free election to hold the Office of the prime Minister and the Office of City Admistrator, the above ethnic and seccionist politics is abhoring and repulsive, working against the silent majority to live in peace and harmony among ethnic groups and religeous denominations in a classless, democratic society.

  10. Nasru
    | #10

    Why participate in an election that is not fair, free and that is not democratic? Even if the people win, as you said, it will not change the undemocratic nature of the 2010 election conducted under a dictatorial minority regime.
    I am sure no one will call the election a democratic election just because the people side won
    It will still be ነጻ ያልሆነና ፍትህ የተጓደለበት:
    የህዝብ ወገን ስላሸነፈ ብቻ ምርጫው የተሳካ ነው አይባልም::

  11. AFDist
    | #11

    Oromo: eject Unitarists, fight Hegemonists, but elect Unionists

    During the time of being occupied by Abyssinians for the last about 150 years, we Oromo people were “allowed to elect our leadres” under the monarchy of Mekonnen, T., under the military dictatorship of Mengistu H/M and now under the ethnocracy of Meles Z. We all know what sort of elections we had till now, no need of elaboration about them. Now we are few weeks before we will be “allowed to elect our next leaders”. What are we Oromo people and other oppressed nations in the empire going to do? Boycott the election as some people like to advocate and want to convince us? Elect OPDO and the likes, who are the servants of the hegemonist Weyane? Run behind the Oromo individuals who are serving the unitarist Amhara elites, i.e individuals like Yaqob Likie (brother of the famous Oromo, Senay Likie) of AEUP and the Oromo lady Sofiya Yilma Dheeresaa (daughtor of the famous Yilma Dheeressaa) of EDP? Or should we elect democratic federalist Oromo nationalists rallying behind the OFC of MEDREK?

    We like it or not, the next election is the struggle between the following trio: the unitarist AEUP and the likes, the hegemonist EPRDF and the unionist MEDREK. Who of the three does serve the interest of Oromo national liberation? No question, it is Medrek who at least strives for the genuine ethnic federation and who tries to make Afaan Oromo one of the working languages of the federation! So before we do decide to move for the election, we need to ask ourselves the following question: who will take power from the hegemonist Weyane if at all successfull, the unitarists like AEUP or the unionists like Medrek? It is clear that no Oromo of sound mind will elect the ruling fascists, but we all need to choose from the two camps of the opposition. Nowadays Ethiopian politics is cristalizing very well. The opposition camp against the fascist Weyane is well devided in to the following two:

    - the backward unitarists, who do want to forge unitary Ethiopia of one language (of course Amharic), one people, one culture, one religion (of course Orthodox), one ethnic dominance (of course Amhara) and one flag under one God. This camp includes parties like AEUP and EDP who want to dismantle Oromia with the pretext of opposing kilil-federalism, the camp which is now instrumentalized by Weyane to fight against the major pro-genuine-kilil-federalism opposition alliance aka Medrek.

    - the forward oriented unionists, who want to form a union of free nations in Ethiopian region in which both individual citizens’ rights and collective national rights will be respected. Parties organized under Medrek stand for this action and they are now vehemently attacked by Weyane and its allies.

    Mind you all, the word unity has got double meaning. Unitarists want to hide behind the word unity, eventhough the true and acceptable unity is the free union of all citizens and nations based on their free will, which the unionists like Medrek try to achieve. Major parties which belong to the unitarist camp are parties like AEUP of Ato Hailu and EDP of Ato Lidetu, whereas major parties which can be categorized in the unionist opposition camp are those like OFC, UDJ, UEDF of Prof. Beyene and ATSD (Arena Tigrai). Surely in the coming election, the first backward conservative unitarist group will lose, whereas parties in the progressive and unionist second opposition group still must be smart enough to more cooperate and coordinate their efforts in order to get rid of the fascists from Finfinne palace.

    Today, Weyanes are very much terrified of the second opposition camp, that is why they do now support the first opposition camp and made the quasi-alliance in the form of Shawel-Zenawi-Handshake, eventhough their policy differs very much, the goal being to weaken Medrek. At this moment Ato Hailu and Ato Lidetu are taken by Weyane as the hopefull saviors of Ato Meles Zenawi’s fascist government by trying to neutralize or eliminate the second opposition camp of Medrek. So Oromo should move against the unholy Hand-shake and here are some of the reasons, why Oromo should elect the unionists:

    - unitarists are the obsolete mindsets, who still think to subjugate Oromo, to dismantle Oromia and to amharanize the empire. It is mind boggling to read in the program of UDJ, that it is NORMAL to claim Amharic to be federal language and to notice that Oromic needs public verdict to have the same status. If the “moderate” Amhara oriented party UDJ thinks like this, we can imagine how the very conservatives like AEUP and EDP think about the equality of languages in the empire like Amharic and Oromic.

    - hegemonist Weyane leaders do have no sound mind to let Oromo people to excercise our God-given right to self-determination for they never want to lose the possibility of exploiting the very rich resource of Oromia to build Tigrai further as far as they are in power and as long as they can.

    - the future political move of the region and the globe is in the direction of realizing both national liberation like the self-determination of Oromo nation and the regional/continental integration like the necessary African federation of free nations. So the unionist parties like Medrek are the parties of the future, whereas the unitarists are parties of the past and the hegemonists are parties of only the present.

    - election in the empire is not a true election per se for Oromo, but it is a means of struggle for us Oromo people, which we can use to move in our liberation journey a milimeter forward. So Oromo people should use this opportunity of the next election to start another phase of the FDG (Fincilaa Didaa Garbummaa).

    - we like it or not, despite the setbacks here and there, under the current visionary leadership, OLF has been transformed into a powerful political/military force that even non-Oromos are starting to rely on to help bring change in Ethiopia. With its military wing led by a professional officers corps of generals and colonels, and with a matured and highly experienced political leadership, OLF has become a leading player in Ethiopian politics. When the fast-decaying Woyanne regime falls apart, the OLF military alone can step in and maintain order, let alone joined by the other opposition parties such as G-7, ONLF, EPPF, TPDM and others. OLF leaders have played a key role in the realignment of forces in the Horn of Africa region. Their visionary leadership has contributed significantly to the recent paradigm shift in Ethiopian politics from serving the unitary empire to fostering the political union of all free nations in the region.

    - the nucleus of all the unionist parties was the AFD and now it is the Medrek, both of which are the nucleus of the necessary coalition for common purpose. Medrek’s current objective is to facilitate a demise of fascism and then to promote a national reconciliation dialogue. It is good to believe that one of the routes to a regime change in Ethiopia is the one that is being followed by Medrek. The fact that alliances like AFD and Medrek do exit at all has completely changed the Ethiopian political landscape over night by bringing ethnic-based groups to the “mainstream Ethiopian politics”.

    The ideal remedy against the fascist Weyane would have been the transformation of the unitarists in to unionists, so that ALL do fight together against Weyane. That means people in parties like AEUP, EPPF, EPRP and EDP should stop dreaming and talking about bringing back the old unitarist Ethiopia and they should accept the NEW union of free nations in Ethiopia (NEW Ethiopia). Additionally, I also would like to encourage the oppressed mass of both Amhara and Tegaru nations to fight for their own self-determination and then for a holy union of free nations in the empire/region. This could have united all the opposition groups under one umberella to fight and get rid of fascist Weyane. Hopefully unitarists will come to their sense to do this in a far future so that we can have ALL-inclusive Medrek at home and ALL-inclusive TIBIBIR in diaspora against the worst EVIL of the Horn region aka Weyane.

    So the future politics of the empire/region is to get rid of both the unitarism and the hegemonism and to rally behind the unionists like Medrek in order to forge the future union of autonomous nations in the empire/region, where all the citizens individually and the nations collectively will be free to determine our own fate without being looted and lorded as it is now under Weyane. That is why I do recommend in short that Oromo people in particular and all oppressed nations in general radically eject the unitarist forces like AEUP, but fight against the Weyane hegemonists and of course elect the unionists in Medrek. Then to boycott the next election as some people try to advocate is not a solution for Oromo and other oppressed nations, eventhough we know that the election will never be fair and free under Weyane regime. I just encourage all Oromo and other peoples to be registered and then to start the new phase of FDG in order to get rid of the deceptive OPDO and the likes in favour of promoting the democratic forces like OFC in Merdek. I wish us all Oromo people and other oppressed nations at home and in diaspora a good fight against both unitarism as well as hegemonism and I do have a holy wish of the necessary success in our fight!


  12. aha!
    | #12

    Alliance for Democracist is is courting Medrek the mirror image of TPLF/eprdf and imlicitely sustaining TPLF/eprdf regime, with their common ethnic agenda, but are in rivalery with TPLF/eprdf regime. Nothing more nothing less. It has nothing to do with saving Ethiopia from disintegration. AFDist is hoping that Medrek wins, as a lesser of two evils but win or loose, what he does not realize, the status quo of ethnocracy and ethnic dictatorship still linger on. I am anxious to see what is going to say after 2010 election.

  13. Jara
    | #13

    No participation in elections under dictatorship. Elections are instruments of a democratic system.
    We don’t have democratic system in our beloved place.

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