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Ethiopian Opposition party met with Abiy Ahmed at the National Palace

The new prime minister,Abiy Ahmed, is making headlines for what looks like a rapprochement with the opposition party. With TPLF still at the background of the platform where political show is staged, is the effort a real one?

Opposition_Abiy Ahmed
Credit : Fana Broadcasting

April 12,2018

Ethiopian government is employing unusual terminology to denote opposition parties in the country, tefokakari ,an Amharic word which translates to “contending.” Seemingly, the idea is to create the impression that opposition parties are no longer seen as an enemy which was not the case under the late Meles Zenawi and his successor, Hailemariam Desalegne.

Fana Broadcasting, pro-government media, reported that prime minister Abiy Ahmed invited opposition party leaders in Ethiopia for dinner at the national palace this evening. Purpose of the meeting seem to be assuring opposition parties that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF) is ready to negotiate with the opposition parties and that the party wants to make the next election “democratic, free and fair.”

Abiy Ahmed is cited as saying that EPRDF’s interest in “contending parties” emanates from its own need, apart from broadening the political space in the country, to emerge as a strong political party. Ostensibly, it is an effort an effort to overcome the legitimacy crisis from which the ruling party has been suffering for too long so much so that it had to deepen repression by throwing political leaders to jail and harassing supporters. In the last federal election, the ruling coalition claimed that it won all the votes which left the parliament literally with no opposition voices.

“Parliamentary democracy could not be a success without political parties and for that to happen the political space [in the country need to be broadened,” the prime minister is cited as saying.

Opposition parties in Ethiopia seem to be skeptical about Abiy Ahmed’s speech. They told Voice of America Amharic service “We exec that the new prime minister will put his rhetoric into practice.”

It is unclear as to which opposition parties in Ethiopia have attended the dinner party at the National Palace as the free press was restricted from covering the conversation at the dinner party but it is disclosed that religious leaders were invited to the event.

The fact that only government affiliated media, primarily Fana Broadcasting and The Ethiopian Reporter, exclusive access to information drew criticism and is even at odds with the idea of “broadening the democratic space” in Ethiopia.

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