Political divide seems irreconcilable. Government of Ethiopia has stated that no regional election is allowed at this time. TPLF insists that it will have its own election in the region.
May 14, 2020
The Coronavirus situation in Ethiopia which triggered a five months-long state of emergency has brought about economic uncertainty. Yet, the political one seems stronger.
On the bright side, the fight against the pandemic has brought noticeable collaboration between government and opposition political forces, at least for the duration of the state of emergency.
It is manifested, among other things, in agreement that the government can not conduct the election as scheduled in August 2020.
The divergence was on the next steps to be taken to address what a considerable number of political pundits described as a “constitutional crisis” since the term of the existing government is ending before an election could be arranged. Some suggested forming a transitional government composed of the opposition and the ruling party – which transformed itself into the Prosperity Party after undertaking structural and ideological changes. Others suggested extending the election until after six months beyond the end of the terms of government. Still others, like a coalition of seven opposition parties with a secessionist tendency like the Ogaden Liberation Front and Oromo Liberation Front, proposed extension of government power by one year.
The government has already picked the option to extend the election but the decision was in a collision course with the constitution of the country which stipulated that election has to take place before the end of the five years terms. The pandemic situation like the Coronavirus is not foreseen.
The situation put the government in a race for time to arrange a legitimate solution for extending the election. Ethiopian parliament voted in favor of seeking a constitutional interpretation – from the four possible constitutional ways of going about extending the national election.
TPLF (an ethnic Tigray party that administers the Tigray region of Ethiopia) thinks differently. It is possible to conduct the national election despite Coronavirus. The party that dominated Ethiopian politics and government for nearly three decades until 2018 believes that Coronavirus has provided a pretext not to conduct the election.
“It would have been possible to conduct the election in May had there been an interest in the election,” Debretsion Gebremichael who is chairman of the TPLF and acting president of Tigray regional state told journalists during a press statement in Mekelle this week.
He reiterated that his organization, TPLF, will go-ahead with organizing an election in the Tigray region. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), through its chairperson, said TPLF’s move to conduct an election on its own is unconstitutional.
In a video message sometime last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned that his government will take decisive action against those intending to organize what he called “chereba election.”
Debretsion was asked to remark on the Prime Minister’s decision to take action against any election without the recognition of the electoral board. “Forceful measure can not be a solution. It could aggravate the situation,” he told journalists during a press statement on Thursday in Mekelle, as reported by the Voice of America Amharic Service.
TPLF argues, by conducting the election outside the recognition of the Federal government, which it is in the business of respecting the rights of the electorate (in Tigray) and defending the constitutional principle that “no government can not stay in power after five years without an election”
Soon after fall out with EPRDF coalition, TPLF tried to reorganize what it called “Federalist Forces” with the intention to “defend the federal system and the constitution.” Those same Federalist forces issued a statement on Friday following an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa. In the statement, the Federalist Forces expressed support for the extension of the election.
Apart from the Coronavirus situation, the Federalist forces considered sovereignty challenges Ethiopia is facing due to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
TPLF seems to have a different evaluation. Egyptocentric analysis published on May 14 under the title “The End of Ethiopian Miracle,” tends to see TPLF and other ethnic movements in the country as an opportunity to challenge Ethiopia. (Check https://uwidata.com/ for that)
Some politicized Ethiopians tend to think that TPLF is aware that conflict is inevitable if it conducts on its own but it is counting on the possible conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt.
Social media-based Eritrean news outlets leaked information in early May that TPLF has already approached Egypt seeking partnership over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. According to the report, TPLF is even ready for joint ownership of the dam in return for Egyptian help to take over central government again.
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