Election Showdown in Ethiopia: TPLF vs. Medrek

By J. Sirak, Opride Contributor

Ethiopia – As Election Day nears; TPLF finds itself having to defend key parliament seats, perhaps its home turf, the Tigray region seems to have become the major battlefield.  Medrek, a coalition of eight opposition parties, is going after the big names. Despite a growing anxiety about TPLF’s use of force to rig the election, the opposition is fielding candidates in the ruling party’s strong hold areas.

Is Tigray Too Close To Call?

  • Seeye Abraha a former TPLF politburo member is running in Qola Tembein.

  • Gebru Asrat, the former president of Tigray State and chairman of Arena Tigray is running for the parliament seat in Mekele.

  • Asgede GebreSelassie, one of the leading TPLF founders, is running against Abay Tsehaye, TPLF’s Minister of Federal Affairs and National Security Advisor to the PM. Abay Tsehaye, was elected to the House of Peoples Representatives from Selekleka in 2005.

  • Aregash Adane, the top woman during the TPLF struggle and one of the most revered fighters will run in Adwa against Meles Zenawi. This is a key post because at the event Meles loses the parliament seat, according to Ethiopian constitution, he cannot stand for the Premiership post. Article 73 of the constitution states that the Prime Minister “shall be elected from among members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives”. Reliable sources also tell Opride.com that Mr. Zenawi might run in Addis Ababa.

  • Arena Tigray also announced that it will field candidates in 34 of the 38 constituencies in Tigray. The remaining four seats will be contested by Tigreans in UDJ.

Yet despite such interesting strategic moves by the oppositions, it’s inconceivable to think that the TPLF will allow the opposition to pick limited seats in Tigray, let alone win majority.

Sellouts under Attack

It’s to be remembered that Lidetu Ayalew who defected from the opposition after the last election, and Hailu Shawul former chairman of CUD, signed the “Code of Conduct”, a major betrayal of the democratic movement. Now the opposition seems to have the two for a payback. Lidetu, facing sure defeat by UDJ, vacates Addis Ababa to run against Bereket Simon in Bugna, Wello Province.

Lidetu and his masters know too well that he will lose in Addis Ababa. Since Bereket, who has just been replaced by Muktar Kedir of OPDO as Sec. General of EPRDF, is retiring due to illness, it is no surprise that TPLF wants to secure the post by covertly fielding one of its foot soldiers. However, this is unconstitutional given that Lidetu has not lived in the district for six months as required by the law. It’s not that the people of Bugna will elect Lidetu, but that remote district is easier to cheat than a capital city infested by the diplomatic community.

In similar strategic move, Dr. Hailu Araya, a prominent leader of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) will run against Hailu Shawul at Woreda 23 in Addis Ababa. Dr. Araya was among the Kinijit leaders detained following the May 2005 election. Observers say Hailu Shawul stands to lose and might be thinking to boycott the election. Hailu Shawul recently complained about the shortage of voter registration cards in the district in an interview with The Reporter.

He also told Peter Heinlein of the Voice of America that, his party might boycott the election. Mr. Shawul seems to have found himself in a difficult situation. He sided with the ruling party hoping to gain better treatment in order to outmaneuver Medrek; but in the process, he lost the support of his major financiers in the Diaspora. Now as the ruling party fails on the promise of providing him favorable treatment, he is attempting to re-emerge as a hardliner by boycotting the election he stands to lose to Medrek.

Dr. Nagaso Gidada, former President of Ethiopia, has announced that he will compete in Addis Ababa not Dembi Dolo. The regime has been conspiring to prevent him from being re-elected and OPDO is hard at work in blackmailing him as an Amhara mercenary. He has recently beefed-up his reputation and national appeal by joining UDJ. For that reason, Medrek has decided to pull him off and bring him to UDJ’s strong hold – the capital, Addis Ababa.

Meles and co. has also decided to do away with the city council election in Addis Ababa. It is to be remembered special election was conducted just two years ago to replace Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party. However, this is yet another sign of desperation on part of the brutal regime and an effort to not repeat the mistakes of 2005 election.

Oromia: Oromo Federal Congress (OFC) vs. OPDO

In Oromia, Ethiopia’s populous region, the Oromo Federal Congress (OFC) is actively fielding candidates in every precinct. If free and fair election was to be conducted in Ethiopia, we can precisely say “as Oromia goes, so goes the country”. Even with the political space as tight as is, TPLF will undoubtedly be defeated at the ballot box.

A source with knowledge inside the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC), a founding member party in OFC, tells Opride that the party is working to field 125 to 130 candidates out of 178 Parliament seats in Oromia. The source adds the remaining seats will be shared between Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) and UDJ. According to our sources, OPC is also able to field another 380 Oromia Council out of 437.

Together, the two parties in OFC are going to field more than 155 Parliament seats and 450 Oromia Council seats. “That leaves some 24 parliamentary seats for other Medrek member parties”, adds our source.

In summary,

  • There is a general consensus among Ethiopians from all walks of life that TPLF will once again pilfer the election.

  • The opposition is rallying around one MOTTO; i.e., in the words of Merera Gudina, “as far as [TPLF] control the guns, they can rule us. But they cannot rule us by portraying that Ethiopia is enjoying democracy while we do not have any… they can rule us as dictators, but not falsely portraying their image as democrats.”

  • The future of Ethiopia hangs in balance as the Minority regime continues to forcefully cling to power. With the free press effectively muzzled and appearance of new autocratic laws aimed at suppressing dissent, the political space in the country is tighter than it was ever before.

  • TPLF must not miss that no dictator lasts a life time. The power of people, however, disoriented and ill-organized, cannot be defeated even by the most powerful military in the continent. In the forthcoming election, the Ethiopian people will be victorious…but their will may not be granted.

  • The West and the Rest (we) have a moral responsibility to speak truth to power and stare dictatorship in the eye and call it out for what it is.

We shall overcome!

* Oromsis Adula edited this report. Opride Contributor, J. Sirak, filed the original report citing inside sources from Addis Ababa.



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Collaborative stories written or reported by OPride staff and contributors.

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