Letter from Ethiopia: Election 2010 Overview Part I – By Eskinder Nega (Addis Ababa)

February 19th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

EPRDF’s pending schism. (more…)

EPRDF’s pending schism.

With the upcoming elections just around the corner, one discernable dissimilarity between the EPRDF, still clinging to incumbency after almost two decades in power, and the multitude of its electoral opponents, is in how they perceive, exercise and have thus structured power.

Scratch beyond the surface and the EPRDF is really not the monolithic dinosaur as it is most commonly stereotyped. If what defines an organization is the unique amalgam of its history, quality of leadership, cohesion, grass root presence, vision, and perhaps even its luck, then the EPRDF, fast approaching its twentieth year, has evolved in to a coalition of four distinct phenomenon: the increasing confusion of the dominant TPLF; the acute cynicism of the ANDM; the desperate nihilism of the OPDO and the inevitable irrelevance of the incongruent SEPM.

A nasty, but so far bloodless, backstage interplay of these dynamics in what is now a battle to succeed Meles Zenawi has inaudibly developed in to a real threat to the cohesion of the EPRDF, arguably more dangerous than the electoral threat posed by its opponents. We now know that disaster was only averted this year with the extension of Meles’ term in office—-something he had always counted on, according to diplomats—-but this has yet to result in the much anticipated—-or rather, hoped for—ceasefire between two bickering claimants to the throne—OPDO and ANDM. What will be the spillover from this rivalry is hardly hard to predict in this election year, but the signs are already out there that both have calculated that a significant win by the opposition in their regions will undermine their claim; and are thus determined, by hook or crook, to garner as many seats as possible. The ANDM in particular, which was reluctantly forced to concede the most seats in 2005, seems bent on improving on its last performance. Not the best scenario for the opposition this year, though no serious pundit has yet written them off.

It is the vast power vested in the chair of the EPRDF that sets it in marked contrast to its opponents in general; but particularly its principal electoral opponent this year,Mederk, which has surprisingly employed the anarchic working ethos of decision making by consensus rather than majority vote. To operate by consensus, all issues are now being discussed until they are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. The unsustainability of such an arrangement has already become all too evident, its open implosion only a question of time.

By contrast, the EPRDF is clearly a hierarchal organization with a singular power at the top in Meles Zenawi and subsequent levels of delegated power beneath him. Though collective leadership is formally acknowledged, it has no relevance in practice. And because of a complex matrix of history, socio-economy, politics and psychology, a hierarchal arrangement with a strong leader at the top is, I believe, best for Ethiopian political organizations; and, I would argue, the decisive advantage of the EPRDF over its opponents.

But the question remains if the prestige and power of EPRDF’S chairperson will endure after Meles. Both the OPDO and the ANDM are betting on it; but none of the EPRDF’s four constituent members have been able to come up with a political heavyweight remotely capable of ensuring a seamless transition. The one figure that has appeal beyond his own party, OPDO’s Girma Biru, who leads the important Commerce Ministry, is noted only for his managerial competence, not the grand vision and ruthlessness deemed crucial to keep the EPRDF vibrant and intact.

The ANDM head, Addisu Legesse, is famous for his subdued demeanor and is purportedly held in particular high esteem by Meles for refusing an offer of the Prime Ministership by Seye Abraha et al just before their expulsion from the party. But the ANDM’s unanimous rally behind Meles under the leadership of Addisu had been widely interpreted as a Machiavellian maneuver by Amharas to weaken the dominant TPLF, something that still seriously irks a significant number of strategically placed TPLF veterans. Aside from this obvious Achilles heel, Addisu is one of EPRDF’s leaders who stir little passion for or against his name. He is a clear underdog in this race to succeed Meles, and he is already being seriously undermined by a campaign to quietly push him aside on health grounds.

His deputy, Bereket Simon, whose support is generally deemed critical to the eventual successor, was instrumental in marshalling pressure for Meles’ term extension; but his considerable influence is expected to wane once Meles eventually leaves the limelight. His health notwithstanding, Bereket is still, along with Meles, EPRDF’s dynamo, his clear genius for intrigue a cause of much resentment both inside and outside the EPRDF. His reputation with the opposition for arrogance, insincerity and rigidity was contemptuously set aside by his party and he has emerged, yet again, as the lead EPRDF negotiator for the upcoming elections, a clear message that the EPRDF intends to play rough. Those who had hoped that this would mean less of his time for EPRDF’s intra-party politics have so far been profoundly disappointed; this is a man who has habitually worked overtime throughout his adult life.

The enigma of this drama is the role of Sebhat Nega, the king maker two of decades ago whose backing was vital for Meles’ accession to the helm of the TPLF. The side he chose at the climax of the fallout between Meles and Seye Abraha et al was no less crucial for the final outcome. Sebaht has chosen to leave TPLF’s politburo but remains a member of the CC. But both count for much less since the departure of Seys Abraha et al, his continued influence has more to do with his access and the propensity of Meles to listen to him. Most pundits are puzzled about his stance on the succession issue, but almost all agree that the side he chooses will be considerably emboldened.

The surprise of the last few years has been the performance of the OPDO chairman, Abadula Gemeda, whose dubious ethnicity, embarrassing weight problem and a somewhat comical intellectual pretension (he has written a book) has made him a favored subject of the city’s political jokes. However, his management of the vast Oromo region, which is larger than many African countries, and the relatively restive OPDO has won him high marks both inside and outside the EPRDF. But few believe that this has propelled him in to a serious contender for Meles’ seat. Whether he will surprise again is an open question, particularly since no one contends that he has counted himself out.

So though the EPRDF enters this election season confident that its victory is assured, it is less united than it has ever been in its history. How the opposition utilizes the fault lines in the EPRDF to their advantage will test the acumen of their best leaders.

  1. Aye!
    | #1

    OPDO; ANDM…bla bla realy it does´nt make sense. Addisu, Gemeda….
    as far as we know they are toys
    I tell you old joke from Addis:
    Semehal Meles asked Azeb a lot of different toys and she got it. All of a sudden she wishes puppet like Abdul Gemeda. She said, mom, I wish a pupe like Abdul Gemeda. Azeb said, oh honey, he is your fathers favourite toy.

    EPRDF= Ye Tigraye netsa awchi=TPLF

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    Nega’s solipsistic drivel is not convincing to those of us who follow the Oromo politics. His chauvinistic tone regarding OPDO leaders is a throw-back to Abyssinian (timqett) Vis-a Vis other ethnic groups in the Empire! The seemingly dense and pretentious piece is nothing but canards processed by all Habasha intellectuals who have not liberated themselves from their father’s view of the subject peoples of the Empire

    Get real ato nega!…..the country is more than some scoundrels from Tigre and Gonder!


  3. mateos
    | #3

    If there is/are any one that believes an election will take place in Ethiopia parallel to that of the western worl or others, then the believers must be awaken now or not followed the true colors of the aiga jungle products. Who is expecting Meles and his boss Bereket will bring change to the people of Ethiopia? Mondays they will announce another political party and the same week those formed political parties are arrested never to be seen again or dehumanized; Tuesday they will announce some sort of constitution then the same week that constitution is changed to another constitution, Wednsday they will anounce some what economic gains or forcast, 10.1%, then the same week the will beg for aid, Thursday they will arrest what they did not arrest on Mondays, Fridays those arrested will sentenced to death or life in prison, and Weekends are reserved for hoodwinkling the AU baboons and other paedophiles in the whole of Ethiopia. There will be fair election ones Meles and his boss Bereket are locked in the same cell for life by the Ethiopian people!

  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    all who belive that tplf will leave thepower by ellection ,isnot
    intelegent enough to think .dictatours will neverthink that pawercomes

  5. Dender
    | #5

    Either post the right title for this article or post the article under the title we see here “ET409: Last words of the pilot ‘we’re finished, God have mercy on us”

  6. GIRMA
    | #6


  7. GIRMA
    | #7


  8. aha!
    | #8

    What this author displays is what I long ago forseen, the squabbling between Seye and Meses is is that of rivalry for the top position each from its coalition party that are mirror images to each other over the same ethnic and seccionist agenda. The squabble between ANDM and OPDO is for ethnic leadership, which has nothing to do with national agenda, that of Ethiopian Nationalism, Sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, although will be much close to implementing that than OPDO, because of brader nationalisic than ethnical inclination of of ANDM in coalition.

    Collictive leadership and consesus building rather than majority does not make Tigrai Harena/fdd/efdr any better than TPLF/eprdf, because they are mirror images of each other, and both do not serve the the national agenda for Unity, Territorial Integrity, Soverignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. What is important is for the leader to govern the country from a new constutional base where the Unity, Territorial Integrity, Sovernighty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians is maintained, whether the leader is from Tigrai, Amhara, Oromo or from the Sidamo(Sothern Region) of the contending dominant ethnic goups to govern, develop the country according to ecological zones accross states, and develop a mosic of cultures and langauges in the respective regions without the competition to be on top of each other.

    The author is naive to conclude all will be well when Meles and Bereket are in the cell, ethnic and seccessenist politics are deeply rooted and the political, economic strangle hold and exploitation of Ethiopia and Ethiopians by TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises, the security forces, the agazi forces will remain intact and the constitution will remain the same under either TPLF/eprf and/or Tigrai-harena/fdd.efdr leadership.

  9. aha!
    | #9

    Corrigendum: In the first sentence of the last pargraph, insert the word ,”Wehn” between the word “cell” and “ethnic”.

  10. aha!
    | #10

    Corrigendum:In the second sentence of the first paragraph, it should read “ethnical inclination of OPDO”.

  11. seifu
    | #11

    Tigrean People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) fighters on Feb. 17 carried out a successful military operation against Woyanne forces in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.

    Tigrean People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) fighters on Feb. 17 carried out a successful military operation against Woyanne forces in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.

    The TPDM fighters attacked Woyanne’s 31st army division that was stationed at Adi Dahero Woreda (district) in western Tigray, killing 43 and wounding 24 enemy troops.

    During the fighting that took place from 7 AM – 1 PM, the TPDM fighters captured sniper rifles, AK47s, hand grenades and other types of military hardware. More at TPDM’s web site: demhit.com

  12. Y aberham bege
    | #12

    Ato Eskander assume that Ethiopians are part of this poletical dram as he clearly is and we exicted and intersted about who will tkae Meles place. Also he think the oppstion should take advantage of such situation.
    I think you are talking to yourself first and most TPLF or oppostion dose not represent the current Ethiopian demography, how many people feel they have future in this country? how many Ethiopians ready to leave this country if they have a chance? How stupid people you think they are to belive in such almost artisitic poletical process.
    Ethiopians not part of this artisitic fictional poletics.
    Ethiopians waiting a corrdinted effort to uproot this cancer all together and start from scrach as far as true democratic poletics concerned.

  13. seifu
    | #13

    tanks seifu my brather or sister http://www.demhit.com

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