Letter from Ethiopia:Election 2010 overview Part II – Eskinder Nega (Addis Ababa)

February 27th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

The opposition in election 2010 (more…)

The opposition in election 2010

Ask me what the distinctive trait of the opposition is in this year’s election apart from the provocative imprisonment of Birtukan Mideksa, and my response would not be amidst the proverbial list: weak organization, lack of preparedness, appallingly low finance (pundits estimate that only slightly over half a million US dollars is available to the entire opposition this election season, excluding the miserly electoral board finance) and an assortment of other secondary factors. We know from the 2005 elections that these are handicaps that could be overcome in the space of a few short months. But that did not happen by chance, it took the combination of a public predisposed to change; the excitement generated by CUD’s leaders, primarily by Birhanu Nega and Lidetu Ayalew, both of whom are for very different reasons no longer part of the opposition contesting in this election; and what is distinctively missing this year: the will to win.

It has been said copiously that the prime culprit for the pessimism that has overwhelmed the opposition’s will to win lies squarely in the fold of repeated fallouts between CUD’s leaders: first, between the AEUP and UDJ; and later, quite shockingly, between Professor Mesfin Welde-Mariam and UDJ’s leadership; and no less, the loss of Birhanu Nega to the legal opposition, the one person that had transformative effect on politics in 2005.

All too true, but less deliberated upon, though of no less significance, is how the conviction of most opposition leaders that the CUD’s choice in 2005 to boycott parliament was wrong has influenced this year’s elections.

Their argument is that the CUD should have accepted the final tally and moved on as an acknowledgment, on the one hand, to the undeniable progress the opposition had unexpectedly made, which it should have consolidated and built on for the 2010 elections; and on the other, to the stubborn determination of the EPRDF not to hand over power, which the opposition had no prospect of changing either by force or persuasion

Whatever the merits of their conviction, its effect on this year’s election is palpable in so far as it has shifted the opposition’s strategy from winning to that of securing as many seats as possible; and subsequently, to joining parliament to prepare for the next battle five years hence. Barring the unlikely rise of unforeseen circumstances, expect not a repeat of the 2005 elections driven by an opposition and press intent on making history.

But this is not to say that this election is absolutely devoid of excitement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take as an example the emergence of this year’s most exciting political personality, Seye Abraha, and his decision to contest the election in Tigray. Herein lies not only the question of a free and fair election, but what an incensed TPLF leadership under Meles Zenawi is accusing Seye of fermenting: latent Tigarayan regionalism that threatens the cohesion of the entire Tigrayan national movement; in other words, the unity of the TPLF.

Hardly an accusation that matters the most to Seye now that he has turned his back on ethnic politics, but from the perspective of the TPLF leadership a battle they can not afford to lose. Exactly the setting for an epic political battle, if only Seye was backed by a functional party machine in Temben (where he will run), reasonable finance and a sympathetic press to relay his message. But all these are absent and this will have to be the mother of all David and Goliath battles; which will make it one of most watched election spots this year. And if in this specter too, David is to prevail over Goliath, the history of the TPLF will only be repeated; whose own crusade against the Derg mirrors the essence of the legend. But come what may in the election, Seye’s challenge of the TPLF in Temben has inadvertently highlighted the question of Adwan dominance; an issue that will ultimately have to be dealt with politically, unlike the tendency so far to dismiss it on grounds of conspiracies against Tigrayan unity.

But for now, the issue of Tigrayan unity is a powerful weapon that works in favor of the TPLF; and it will be interesting to see how Seye, with 35 years of political experience behind him, will tackle it.

If he chooses to ignore it, he will do so at his own peril. I for one believe that the most important speech of his political career will have to address this issue, with the whole of Tigray—indeed, the whole nation—tuned in.(He can use the air time allotted to the opposition on state radio an television.)

Seye’s impact on UDJ is also worthy of note. He joined it at a critical moment, when the party was for all practical purposes parlayzed, and his healthy self confidence, recognition of the value of team work (an attribute of TPLF leaders in general) has boosted moral both in the leadership and rank and file. Seye has spread his intensity and desire to see at least some result from this election to others, and I can’t imagine UDJ in its relatively robust standing these days without him.

There are other interesting contests around Tigray, too; Meles Zenawi, for example, is facing his party’s most famous female fighter,Aregash Adane, whose legendary courage is striking in that it still remains undiminished. Few expect an upset, but the power of Aregash’s personal odyssey will endure long after this election is over. But the absence of former TPLF heavyweights like Tewede Wolde- Mariam and Alemseged Gebre-Amlak is probably a sign that a more serious challenge to the TPLF’s hegemony may be five years in the future.

The elections elsewhere are less thrilling, perhaps with the exception of what many say is unlikely now: the faceoff between Lidetu Ayalew, a.k.a. Kidetu, and Bereket Simon, who insists that only his mother is Eritrean, in Bugena, Lasta. Lidetu, shrewd as ever, has calculated quite rightly that he has no prospect in Addis and has opted for a try in his home town. (Bereket, on the other hand, according to the rumor in Addis, is to shift to Gonder, where he was born; and, he insists, where his father is from. But this is not confirmed yet. We will have to wait for the official announcement of the candidates to see if it’s indeed true. But don’t be surprised if the EPRDF moves to save one its most valuable assets. Lidetu is maliciously inclined against the entire opposition and would rather see the EPRDF win rather than any of its opponents.)

In Addis Ababa, Engineer Hailu Shawel is to face Dr. Hailu Araya of Medrek in Wereda 23, where Hailu had won with an overwhelming majority in 2005. A split of the opposition vote is unavoidable, but if the crack will be large enough to enable the EPRDF to squeeze through with a third of the vote (the maximum it could reasonably expect in Addis) is an open question.

  1. Ferenj lebaw
    | #1

    Whatever this report is saying is unfortunately untrue. We love MEDEREK, but How fast did Medrek materialize to become such a contesting party? Our reporter sounds like he is a Weyane. He claims that everybody is a weak opposition. Not true. It is just that Weyane is afraid of being taken by AEUP. MEDREK is a force, but will not be able to dominate this time, because of many reasons and Birtukan. So let us stand by the Ethiopian people and help them get what they wish this time. Even if Birtukan is released there will not be time. Once again, the Ferenj will play hard ball and act like oppositions are weak, just like how our reporter sounds. But in real fact, Weyane and Ferenj( the colonizer)are afraid of AEUP. Who doesn’t know that?

  2. beles
    | #2

    Eskinder as usually has eloquently narrated the state of the country. But I was also reminded of why present Ethiopian personalities has failed to bring any effect on the Ethiopian people. Eskinder’s deliberate attempt to ignore Lidetu Ayalews contribution despite his sacrifices only reflects on Eskinder’s credibility as an impartial journalist and activist. Sadly enough very few has the moral fortitude to serve the truth.

  3. Dima
    | #3

    You guys you always think the same until you die. you donot know what dynamism. How can AEUP, pro Amhara party win, when MEDREK is there. why somalis elect pro Amhara when they have their own. Please try to shape yourself to the reality. the same is true for others. You can wish/dream what ever.

  4. Ayub
    | #4

    Thank you Ato Eskinder, i found your report to be unbiased and informative please keep writing.

  5. Assta B. Gettu
    | #5

    The 2010 Election fatigue and Meles’ night mare

    “If I’m out, the country will also be out, and the election will be invalid,” says Meles Seitanawi in his dreams and vain imaginations.

    Day in and day out, Meles is being tormented by seeing the gathering of dark clouds around the high mountain of the May Election 2010 that he wants to climb and stand up at the summit of this high mountain and declare he is the winner.

    The fact, however, remains that Meles has never been a mountain climber and an election winner, and, of course, he is not going to win this coming new Election; therefore, he says that if he is out, the country will be out for sail and the Election will be invalidated by his Agazi Army, and the concerned young Ethiopian students will be out again in the street of Addis Ababa, declaring the legitimacy of the Election.

    During this 2010 Election, most of the foreign observers will not comment about the legitimacy of the election until Meles is declared the winner, but if they are absolutely sure he is indeed the looser, they will pack up their suitcases and go home, and after that they will declare that the opposition has won, and the Woyanne government has lost for the second time. Their confirmation that the opposition has won the 2010 Election will be a severe blow to the entire establishment of the corrupt leadership of Meles Seitanawi and his wife Jezebel.

    Still in power, though not recognized by the international election committee and by the European and American journalists, Meles will put on the table the following ten proposals to the victorious but powerless opposition leaders:

    1. Power sharing
    2. Reconciliation between the Ethiopians whose loved ones were murdered or imprisoned and the Woyanne government officials
    3. Compensation for those who were unjustly jailed or killed
    4. Invalidation of all the land leases to the foreigners
    5. Complete confession to the crimes that have been committed by the Agazi
    6. Protection of the Meles family from persecution for crimes they might have knowingly or unknowingly committed
    7. Transfer of all government properties to the new democratically elected entities
    8. Bringing the legitimate Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church to power and deposing the illegitimate Aba Paulos
    9. Inviting to court of justice the illegitimate Patriarch for murdering one Ethiopian monk during day time while preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    10. Safe passage to all Woyanne followers to leave the country if they want too.

    The new government, after thoroughly discussing the ten proposals, will consider the following numbers unacceptable: 1, 2, 6, and 10 while the rest are commendable.

    With rage and frustration, Meles will leave the conference, the first conference of its kind, and news is spreading allover the world that Meles has not yet decided to relinquish power to his opponents and the opposition party is asking the European Union and Washington to convince Meles to leave his office and surrender power peacefully to the winners of the Election 2010. Yet, unconvinced he has lost the election, Meles demands the election committee to recount all the ballots; however, the election committee rejects his desperate demand to recount the votes and urge him to accept defeat graciously and humbly and save his country from impending confusion and even a civil war.

    So far, the Tigrean army has been quiet even though it has been rumored that the army is moving with tanks toward Addis Ababa after Meles has been defeated in the election. The army, however, has never left its station and has been waiting patiently to hear the real winner of the election before it takes sides.

    It seems though that some Tegarues are leaving in great numbers their homes in Addis Ababa and going back to Tigray; these are the wealthy Tegarues who have made great fortunes for the last 18 years on the expenses of the Amhara, the Oromo, and the other Ethiopian tribes. Will their people in Tigray accept them with open arms or turn them back to Addis Ababa since they have never helped some of the poor Tegarues in the countryside of Mekelle city? Tormenting question of this kind has yet to be answered by the wealthy Tegarues themselves who have been driving the rest of the Ethiopian tribes insane.

    And as the wealthy Tegarues move out of Addis Ababa, the marginalized Oromos, the Amharas, and the other tribes move in, not in big number but in a small number because they are still scared of Meles Seitanawi and his wife Jezebel, and they are not yet sure that the wealthy Tegarues have completely left the city.

    Those Oromos and Amharas who entered the city after the Tegarues left are like those biblical four men of Samaria who entered the Arameans’ camp and found the camp had been abandoned. Then these hungry four men of the besieged city of Samaria entered one of the tents; they ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and cloths and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. They finally announced to the rest of the Samarians that the Arameans had indeed left their camps full of food, drink, clothes, and many valuable articles (2nd Kings 7:3-10). But the truth is that the stingy and wealthy Tegarues may never leave behind something important except the houses they have possessed from the legitimate Oromos or Amharas or other Ethiopian tribes.

    In reality, Meles will never allow the Tegarues to leave Addis Ababa, and he will never leave power without a fight, and so let us fight and remove him from his office as soon as we know we have won the Election.

  6. aha!
    | #6

    Unlike previous freelance essayists, it is good to see analytical type of editorial comment coming from a journalist, walking in a tight rope and inclined towards Medrek and leaving KAEUP and other proponents with national agenda into the mix in his analysis, focusing on personalities rather than party platfom in terms of national and ethnic agenda.

    The way I look at it, the contest between Siye and Meles in their own terf is that of rivalery for the top position, it has nothing to do with the Unity of Tigray and it has nothing to do with Unity, Territorial Integrity, Sovereignity of Ethiopa and Ethiopians, whether he wins in Tigrai for UDJP in Tigray. As the saying goes “agnkeh Agnkeh wode wodeh watew”, it reinforces Tigrai Harena/fdd/efdr as mirror of TPLF/eprdf, not UDJP, straddling between to camps of the newly teletafi parties and spoliler for KAUP, like Ross Perot’s candidacy as republican leaning independent party, taking away votes from the Republicans. They have no chance of winning over TPLF/eprdf because they are under a tight leash by the regime, inspite of the fact they are warmed up for a debate and gearing up for election thanks for the Code of Conduct agreement signed by KAEUP, now without any qualm about eqity of time allotment, broadcasting the debate to the public and the appropriate days to broadcast the debates, they joined the debate.

    On a broader context, if you line up, TPLF/eprdf regime, Tigrai Harena/fdd/efdr, with lately added Andinet to efdr, and KAEUP and others with same agenda, the former two are the most talked about mostly in the USA Diaspora websites, now by a genuine Ethiopian journalist, who happened to be oblivious to ethnic and seccessionist politics and policies that are at the core of Ethiopian politics.

    It is not a matter of talking about personalities in the political arena, but it is a matter of talking about their platform of ethnic agenda, that distinguishes them from those of Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian national interest. The former tend to mainain their ethnic and seccessionist rights in a way to create ethnocracy, rather than democracy, and to have ethnic right to supercede individual right, where Ethiopians feel and understand,live and prosper anywhere in Ethiopa, rather to be limited to ill defined ethnical boundries.

    What is intriguing also EPRDF and EFDR are party names as well the title/emblem of the Government, to pronounce the existing party influence and to bewitch Western donor countries with the word democracy, where democracy is a rule by the people. I doubt if KAEUP makes the same error.

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