Yes, a Fake Election, but for what Purpose? – Messay Kebede

May 28th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

I am still struggling to make sense of Sunday’s election from the viewpoint of the Woyanne government itself. There is no doubt that its results represent a crushing and demoralizing defeat for the opposition. Such a colossal defeat shows once again the pettiness and the self-defeating impact of the disputes among opposition forces by underlying the imperative of unity as the only path to acquire any political weight in a democratic contest. It also reflects the extent to which the opposition has underestimated the power of manipulation and intimidation that the Meles’s regime still possesses. As a result, it jumped into the electoral contest without sufficient guarantees of impartiality, a position inspired by the prevailing belief that the regime is on its last legs.

But the big enigma of Sunday’s election has to do with the exact benefit that the Woyanne ruling clique is gaining from a defeat of this magnitude of the opposition. The more the regime denies that votes were rigged and voters and candidates intimidated, harassed, and threatened, the less easily answerable becomes the question of knowing why the regime cooked up a victory claiming 99.66 % of parliamentary seats. Let alone external observers and governments, any person alien to Ethiopian politics would conclude that such a result can be obtained only if the opposition has been stifled or non-existent.

If the Woyanne regime wanted to shore up its legitimacy badly tarnished by its electoral defeat in 2005, the reasonable thing would have been to give some seats to the opposition, thereby providing some semblance of fairness to the election. To the extent that a total victory takes away all credibility from the electoral process and, therefore, defeats the initial purpose of recognition, the decision to conduct a fake election resulting in the ousting of the opposition from the parliament sounds discordant indeed. Hence my question: what is the purpose of plotting a fake election that lamentably fails to convince anyone, since we can assume that Meles and his clique expect some king of benefit from the exercise?

I have played with various hypotheses; I have also reflected on what some commentators had already said or written, such as the construction of a totalitarian state or the deliberate intention of undermining nonviolent forms of struggle. These two reasons are valid: the eradication of the opposition completes the construction of a full-fledged totalitarian state, just as it presents nonviolent opposition as a hopeless strategy. However, these two goals hardly agree with the equally important need that the Woyanne regime has to be recognized as a legitimate winner by the international community.

All the same, let us look closer: there is more than one way of obtaining international recognition. There is the democratic way of majority vote; there is also the default way demonstrating the utter insignificance or unviability of the opposition. As far as the Woyanne regime is concerned, Sunday’s election has shown to Ethiopians and the whole world that there is no opposition to speak of. In my view, the decision to concoct an election purging the opposition from the parliament reflects the TPLF’s complete desertion of the very idea of free and fair elections. The TPLF elite has drawn from its 2005 electoral debacle the final conclusion that it cannot rely on any sort of fair competition.

On the other hand, one of the implications of the total defeat of the peaceful opposition is to discourage nonviolent struggles and push more people toward armed struggle. The prospect of widened violent confrontations will allow the Woyanne to openly give up its democratic façade and crack down opponents, henceforth accused of using unconstitutional means to come to power. In this game of violence, the Woyanne regime is better equipped and experienced and can also gain recognition as a government defending itself against terrorism.

The other and by far the most important implication of the crushing defeat of the opposition is its ability to provide emotional soothing. The humiliation of the 2005 election is still fresh in the mind of many Woyanne leaders and cadres. From the viewpoint of removing an emotional wound, the landslide victory supplies a demonstration of force that humiliates both opposition leaders and those millions of Ethiopians who voted for Kinijit. It shows, by hook or by crook, the total control of the country by the Woyanne totalitarian machine. In other words, it says: here is the bare fact, deal with it!

From such a resounding demonstration of force, we can even expect a timid opening of the political space. Now that things have been straightened out, the game of “free election” can resume with the understanding that the right to oppose––a gracious gift of the victor––must never include the goal of defeating the TPLF.

  1. abdi gudina
    | #1

    Dr Messay is so generous to devote his precious time and talent to analyse the pseudo Democracy in Ethiopia. In my view election 2010 is the defeat for those democratic countries who have told us that socialism has been dead and buried with the system of one party system. But for us, Ethiopians, we have been in one party system since the military junta came to power in late 19th. The transition in 1991 was from military junta of Mengistu Hailemariam to the rebel socialist group of Meles Zenawi. Now Ethiopia is officially moving to one party system adopted from China. Is this our problem or the problem of those who have lied to us that there is democracy in Ethiopia when we were crying under corrupt, incompetent and socialist regime of Meles Zenawi?

  2. Qum-Neguer
    | #2

    Dr. Messay deserves appreciation for his incisive comments on the recent so-called “election” in Ethiopia. Everyone with a sane mind knows too well that it was merely a farce.

    What I find lacking in Dr. Messay’s essay is the fact that aside from the deliberate election thievery perpetrated by the Woyanes and their stooges, what brought about the devastation in the 2010 election process is not clearly articulated by him. For example, the continued disjointed effort of the opposition: a divided house…. has not been highlighted by him.

    Dr. Messay’s piece unfortunately lacks specific proposals for the next election in 2015, an event that is round the corner in terms of Ethiopia’s framework of time.

    Here are some ideas:
    1. The leaders of all the opposition parties should resign immediately and facilitate their replacement by a more youthful, capable, dedicated, resourceful, and persevering individuals (male/female) with an unwavering commitment to democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights;

    2. The new leaders of the political parties and civic society organizations should call a meeting somewhere in Europe or USA (where they could have an open and free discussion) to formulate a united front and an effective strategy to achieve a real democracy in Ethiopia;

    3. The leaders of support groups in the diaspora should also resign immediately and be replaced by more competent people who should focus on: (a)unity; (b)an increased support (financial, ideas, etc.) to the opposition in Ethiopia; and (c)an effective/robust advocacy through the international community by utilizing, among other things, their voting rights and a close communication with the powers-that-be (parliamentarians, government leaders, media, civic society organizations, etc.)with the objective of achieving democracy and respect for human rights in Ethiopia;

    4. Never to give up until the Ethiopian people will be able to exercise their power to choose the government of their choice.

  3. abdi gudina
    | #3

    Yes Dr Messay deserves genuine appreciation for his sincere and sophisticated analysis. However, the thing is criminal gangs and their leader, Meles don’t deserve such analysis even they do not understand it. Imagine criminal rebel groups are always rebels. The rebel criminal groups and their leader Meles can understand and capable of deception, corruption, repression, killing innocent children and the elderly and theft. So stop twisting the issues and telling as about election 2015. Genocide criminal Meles must be tried before any further political gambling.

  4. Netsanet Zegeye
    | #4

    Dr. Mesay, my instructor in the good old days,at A.A.U, quite rightly deserves the respect and appreciation of all of us,Ethiopians, as aforesaid; this shan’t be misconstrued as misusing this chance to praise my instructor,this name is not the one he knows, even he may not recall me if I tell the real name of mine.
    Now, let me tell you one story:- Two people are intimate friends, one cowardice the other brave; let’s modify it for the purpose I have in mind:- one physically strong, the other weak. When both were loitering around just for a walk, they saw one creature a bit far ahead of their path. The strong said, “Do you see that sheep?”; the weak replied peering towards that creature,”Do you mean the crow?” The strong followed, “No, it is not a crow, it is a sheep! Don’t you have eyes? Are you stupid?” Then, after all the bombardment, the weak unwillingly ‘admitted’ the words of that pugnacious friend. But as they approached that “sheep”, it flew to the blue sky. Being happy of the incident, the impartial witnessing of the flying crow, the weak friend said,”Didn’t I tell you that it is a crow? You see, it flew!” At this moment, the strong couldn’t control his emotion and threateningly said, ” Whether it flew or not,I told you that it is a sheep!” The weak kept quite; he had no option other than ‘accepting’ what his friend has to make him believe. Such is life in this world, and more so is true in the Ethiopian context under the Woyannes’ brutal regime. Miracle is needed to get rid of the problems created by the miraculous woyannes. They are not less than a miracle, a miracle that silences a population of well over 80 million, along with the so called international community.

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