ELECTION IS A MEANS, NOT AN END – By Girma Kassa, Chicago (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As is widely reported in EPRDF (Ethiopian people Revolutionary Democratic Forces) sympathizing website, an “election” will be held in Ethiopia in few weeks. I visited the official website of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. I browsed the links to find out how many Kebeles (neighborhood associations) there are; how many people are registered for each Kebele; and which party fielded candidates… I clicked the link that says “Election Day Countdown”. (more…)
As is widely reported in EPRDF (Ethiopian people Revolutionary Democratic Forces) sympathizing website, an “election” will be held in Ethiopia in few weeks. I visited the official website of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. I browsed the links to find out how many Kebeles (neighborhood associations) there are; how many people are registered for each Kebele; and which party fielded candidates… I clicked the link that says “Election Day Countdown”. To my surprise I read the following: “Ethiopia will hold federal and regional elections on 15 May 2005. Voters will on the same day elect representatives to the House of Peoples’ Representatives, eight Regional Councils and the City Administrations for Addis Ababa and Diredawa”.
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) official website did not even have any updates of the current election that will be held in few weeks. This shows how inefficient and unprofessional this body has been.
Since I could not get any accurate official data from the NEBE, I collected some data from various unofficial websites. (Interviews of political leader, walta information center …)
THE POPULAR CUD NOT PART OF THIS ELECTION
The NEBE reported that 18 political parties will be involved in this election. However, the major opposition party, which was believed to have won the May 2005 election, the CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) will not be part of this election. The NEBE took away the name of the CUD from the rightful leaders who languished in prison for more than 20 months, and illegally gave it to individuals who are being bought by the regime. As the BBC Elizabeth Blunt wrote “key leaders are absent from Ethiopian Election”.
Professor Ephraim Issac and his colleagues mediated the release of CUD prisoners 6 month ago. In a speech he gave to the parliament as well as reporters, Prime Minister repeatedly asserted that the full political right the CUD leaders would be respected. We thought the prime Minister would keep his word and provide a level plain field for all opposition groups to run for offices in a fair and democratic manner. We thought the ruling party will play a major role in alienating some of the fear Ethiopians may have due the aftermath of the 97 election crack down of civilian dissents.
Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is that rulers in Art Kilo are saying one thing today and doing the opposite tomorrow. What we are seeing is their unwillingness to see any major political organization that does not scratch their back as a puppet emerges in the political scene. What we are witnessing is a complete disregard of democratic values and disrespect of the Ethiopian People.
I cannot imagine how an election can be considered as fair and free when the party that won but stolen of the last election is not involved!
JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE REGIME LOYALISTS
Currently there are more than 534 weredas (districts). In each Wereda there will be more than 180 seats, which make 109860 seats for the whole country. In one wereda there will be at least half dozen Kebeles. For each Kebele 300 seats are up for grab. If we assume there is only 6 kebele in one wereda, 977400 seats. Combining the Kebeles and weradas elections will be held for at least 1087460 seats at a minimum. (The maximum number of seats can go to up to 4.5 Million)
An average number of people living respectively in kebele are 25000. For 25000 residents, there will be 300 kebele council members. So 83 (25000/300) people will have one representative in the Kebele council.
Why such super big local government is beyond my comprehension. Some suspects that these numbers are made to be higher to guarantee jobs for their supporters and henchmen who have been used as an extended hand of the regime to spy, and intimidate Ethiopians.
A MOCKERY ELECTION – BEFORE THE GAME BEGIN EPRDF HAS WON
An election is a decision making process where people choose from among different choices. If only one choice is provided it would be hard to call this a modern democratic election, other than comparing it to one party elections of the Derg era)
In Arsi Zone, for Wereda and Kebele council the EPRDF (ruling party) has fielded 109674 candidates. The closest to the ruling party are the ONC (Oromo National Congress) and the OFDM (Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement) which respectively fielded 13 and 9 candidates. In Diredawa the EPRDF and its affiliate the Somali People Democratic Party (SPDP) fielded 12510 candidates. All the other oppositions leaders combined fielded 35 candidates. (It is to be known that the CUD has won in Diredawa and major towns in Arsi zone including Assela in the last 97 election).This shows that 109652 out of 109674 kebele and council seats in Arsi Zone and 12488 out of 12510 Kebele council seats in Diredawa are not contested.
Most serious opposition leaders are not allowed to exercise freely their political activities. The CUD executives and their supporters were systematically intimidated from mobilizing the people. The Tigray Arena Party members who constituted of former TPLF fighters were enormously harassed. It took 8 month for the NEBE to give them a license to legally function as a party. Ato Siye Abraha, a former Defense minister is being watched 24/7.
According to the chairman of the OFDM, Dr Bulcha Demeksa, out of 6000 candidates they originally planned to field only 100 were accepted by the NEBE. “Most are unwilling to put their names for fear of being persecuted. Once, 4 supporters of us showed themselves to register as a candidate in Yaya Negelle. The Police arrested them. Then additional 8 who were supposed to register later declined to show up to the authorities for fear of being arrested” complained the OFDM chairman.
The United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) has been facing problems in registering its candidates in Oromia and Southern Nation and Nationalities People States. Candidates could not be registered for the upcoming elections in Yem Special Woreda and in all woredas of Kembata Zone as well as Jeldu, Ambo and Tokekutare Siraro woredas. According to Dr Beyene Petros the UEDF was not able to register candidates in its full capacity because many of them have been jailed, harassed and abused.
Ato Lidetu Ayalew, in a recent interview he had with the VOA admitted that this election is meaningless and it is a fait accomplit that the ruling party will win the “election”.
The media is totally controlled by the ruling party. Independent websites are blocked. Radio stations like the DW and the VOA are jammed. The election is approaching; until today media is not available for opposition parties to spread their message to the public.
There are reports that the regime has agreed to give 10 minutes a week of free TV airtime for each political party at this later hour of the game. If we take only the airtime from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. The Total airtime available is 1680 minutes per week. The 15 political parties (excluding the ruling parties TPLF, OPDO and ANDM) will be given 150 minutes a week. The difference, 1540 hours will belong to the EPRDF. This shows that the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is having advantage over opposition parties by 10 to 1 ratio. (One thing to note is this 10 minutes gift from the regime is still not available even at this later hour of the game)
CALL FOR BOYCOTTING THIS ELECTION
The NEBE has reported that 29 Million voters have registered to vote, a claim that is outright rejected by oppositions leaders and many Ethiopians. In fact what is known is that Ethiopians are disinterested by this election. Our people have already shown their displeasure and discontent by not registering and avoiding this sham process.
I believe all efforts must be done to deny the regime for exploiting this election to legitimize its deceptive and ugly undemocratic practices in Ethiopia. I therefore respectfully call for opposition leaders in Ethiopia, to reconsider their unfortunate stands and boycott this illegal election. I ask they show leadership and courage and stand for democracy. I ask they stop being used by the regime and show solidarity with their CUD colleagues who were jailed for democracy and are currently denied to even run for election.
Some of these leaders may suggest that they do not have other alternatives. I disagree. There is an alternative: – I call it believing in people’s power. The Ethiopian people need opposition groups to come together and show solidarity against dictatorship. They want to see opposition groups listen to their will and their demand and forge a united pressure on the regime so that democratic institutions (the NEBE, the judiciary, the media …) are restructured to be independent from one party control.
Ethiopians do not want to follow and have no respect at all for whimps and those who massage the back of dictators just for their self interest. They follow honest people which have integrities. They follow people willing to sacrifice their 4000 Birr salary and their free house given by the regime. They follow people who are willing to go in jail and die for their own sake.
I call also for all Ethiopians all over the world to put pressure on Dr Bulcha Demeksa of the OFDM, Dr Merra Gudina and Dr Beyene Petros of the UEDF, and Ato Lidetu Ayalew of EDP_MEDHIN so that they do the right thing and stand with the people at this historic moment. When 99.5% of their people are not allowed to run why would they get involved in the election with the 0.5% in the first place? Where is their solidarity with the 99.5% of their supporters? What good would they bring in running for an election which is anything but election other than giving fuel to dictatorship and extending the pain on the Ethiopian People? Aren’t they aware that Election is a means a tunnel to and end but an end itself?