Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party says the proposed solution needs to be one that addresses three problems at the same time
May 6, 2020
A day after the Ethiopian parliament passed a decision to seek constitutional interpretation as a panacea for the constitutional crisis as the next general election is canceled due to Coronavirus; Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (EZEMA) has issued a statement that proposes a solution to the situation in the country.
“The solution we propose to resolve the existing crisis should be one that overcomes threat from the Coronavirus epidemic, ensures continuity of Ethiopian State, and facilitates the transition to a democratic system,” said in its statement.
The Ethiopian constitution stipulates that a general election has to be held before the end of the parliamentary term but that turned out to be impossible due to the Coronavirus situation.
Apart from the constitutional crisis, EZEMA assessed the situation and issues that Ethiopia is facing. The assessment manifests a common understanding with prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.
Coronavirus, desert locust infestation which is affecting agricultural productivity in the country and possible aggression against Ethiopia due to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are key challenges.
The party also noted that the security and geopolitical situation in the country could be changing fast.
In terms of a solution to the existing situation, the party explored political and legal options – as indicated in the letter. It also said that they held extensive discussion with constitutional law experts in the country.
“EZEMA believes that there has to be a strong government capable of public and provide leadership [to tackle the challenges that Ethiopia is facing].”
EZEMA sees the formation of a transitional government as something that could lead to further crisis. A transitional government could not be a strong one as it lacks strong governance structures, said EZEMA. Besides given the number of political parties in the country (they are more than one hundred), it could be difficult to reach consensus in such a short time.
The party also sees weakness in some of the legal options in that they could create a gap for the government to act decisively and quickly, and could also impair the effort to transition to a stable democratic system. For example, it foresees the impossibility of conducting a general election in a free and fair manner under circumstances of the state of emergency.
For that reason, the party says that declaring a state of emergency (one of the legal options) is not a suitable option for Ethiopia’s current situation.
Equally, dissolving the parliament is a legal option that could potentially lead to a weak government which the party sees as undesirable in light of Ethiopia’s current situation.
Embarking on the constitutional amendment is hard to undertake under the current situation as the process could be time-consuming – among other issues,it was argued.
What EZEMA proposes a selective constitutional amendment to article 58/3 to extend the election by one year under extraordinary circumstances but restricting government power during this period. The party also called for a forum for opposition political parties in the meantime to continuously engage in negotiation and dialogue.
As indicated above, EZEMA as an opposition party came up with the proposal a day after the parliament decided to seek constitutional interpretation to find a legal ground to extend the election.
Although many of the opposition political parties are convinced that the election can not be conducted in August 2020 as planned initially, there does not seem to be an agreement on how to go about the next step.
Then there is Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that represents stark political polarization in the country. The party is seeking to conduct its election in Tigray which the chairwomen of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) referred to as unconstitutional.
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