By Oromsis Adula*
In Ethiopia, Sunday’s parliamentary poll is already closed, the winner announced and the campaign fever has leveled off. We anxiously wait to see who gets to go to Arat Kilo, Kaliti, Ma’ekalawi and other spacious palaces in the country.
With the free press effectively shutdown, the western media has [surprisingly] done a great job on the last weeks of the campaign season to raise the bar of reporting. The Washington based Voice of America reporters deserve a special mention for their courageous job in giving voice to the opposition, whose message is tainted by lack of freedom of press, assembly and speech.
The Ethiopian government opened up the legroom and allowed those foreign journalists to continue reporting in an effort to validate the pretentious election’s results. With only about 200 European Union and 90 African Union – whose impartiality is questioned – observers, the role of western media in the aftermath of the election and on the Election Day remains critical.
The EU mission and ambassadors of the donor countries in Addis Ababa are widely expected to write off the election results as “relatively free and fair”. At the maximum, they would acknowledge “minor irregularities” and add the phrase “not serious enough to invalidate the outcome” to water down the sting. However, the western media can maintain the true essence of journalistic excellence by reporting on the likely pervasive election fraud on Sunday.
If democratic election was to take place in a fair and free environment Ethiopian analysts agree that Medrek, the coalition of eight multi-ethnic political organizations, will win in landslide. In the critical juncture we are at where a minority led ruling party vows to extend its iron-fisted rule for a quarter of a century, here are some interesting polls to watch:
- Tigray, once hailed as the ruling party’s support base, has turned [for the first time] into a battleground and decisive state in this election. Seye Abraha, Gebru Asrat, Aregash Adane and other opposition bigwigs running in the state are expected to carry their home town. However, since the autocratic ruler of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi, can only preserve his premiership by winning his seat in Adwa, the contest is expected to be injurious.
- In Amhara region, the “opposition” is generally expected to win a lot of places given that the ruling party has scaled back campaigning in the region. However, Lidetu Ayalew and Hailu Shawul’s parties – both suspected of having an adulterous relationship with the ruling party, are expected to win some seats. Lidetu who drew large crowd in few reported meetings is said to have revamped his image tarnished by reports of his conversion into Pentecostalism, an abomination among his largely orthodox constituency.
- As of late Oromia has emerged as the frontline in the fight for electoral triumph after remaining in the backburner for most of the campaign season. With a recent flurry of political murders and a grenade hurled at a public rally, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) is expected to make huge gains. However, the ruling party’s associates – the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization – devoted a lot of effort to playing into people’s fear – warning against the return of Neftegna rule. The strategy to brand OFC as an Amhara front has worked for the most part. Even if OFC and other coalition partners manage to win the urban areas where election pamphlets were distributed and meetings were held, they stand to lose in most of the countryside where government cadres’ instruct uneducated farmers what to mark on the ballot.
- Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region – with limited media access and little to no coverage of the state of campaign and/or election, the ruling party is expected to win a lot of places. This will also be the low key area where foreign journalists and observers might not venture into. Perhaps the AU observers can be dispatched to these uncontested regions to declare the ruling party a victor and the election free and fair. But Beyene Petros, a ghost of his past prominence, will make at least a small showing. Lidetu Ayalew’s party will undoubtedly win more seats in the South.
- I share the views of many who argue that no election is taking place in Ethiopia. The ruling party has already “won” without competing and the bravado about Sunday’s poll is more than anything for formality.
- Before we part ways, until after the election, I will be anxious to know whether:
- Merera Gudina, and Bulcha Demeksa’s replacement, will keep their seats (the EPRDF seems intent on entrapping Merera in trumped up charges, a prelude to making him an unhappy camper with Birtukan);
- Seye Abraha, Gebru Asrat, Aregash Adane, Hailu Shawul and Lidetu Ayalew would be elected to parliament.
- History will repeat itself or not at the unlikely event that Meles loses Adwa and thereby all opposition leaders including Seye, Aregash, Drs Merera and Negasso land in Kaliti prison.
- The International community will play a constructive role by siding with the Ethiopian people, a remote hope but hope nonetheless, and not with the minority group that is plunging the country into lasting internal crisis.
- Meles will follow up his comments from last week that he will persecute opposition leaders for violating the election “code of conduct” once he is sworn in for another five years.
Given the foregoing discussion, here are my predictions of the outome: the opposition would be given (I cannot talk of wining or loosing) beween 25% and 40% of the seats. But during the window between the election day and the cetification, EPRDF would hold a closed session to determine which seats to safely reliquish and which ones to tightly hold on to continue with its business-as-usual policy for the next five years.
With enormous feeling of solidarity, in the words of Ronald Reagan, I remind those who braved and dared the grievous consequences to fight for what is right;
Freedom Is A Fragile Thing And Is Never More Than One Generation Away From Extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.
In the end, the Ethiopian People, who are struggling with a vicious cycle of poverty, high inflation, epidemic diseases and above all tyranny of highest proportion, can speak through Ballot or use Civil Disobedience to bring about a lasting change to the country. Freedom for All!
Related Reports :
- Ethiopia tackles ghosts of elections past – BBC News
- Critics Stifled in Ethiopia – Wall Street Journal
- Ethiopia’s ruling party poised to win election? – The Associated Press
- Ethiopia’s Meles on road to 25 years in power – Arab News
- Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi brushes off criticism ahead of polls – Times Online
* Oromsis Adula is the Editor -In-Chief of Opride.com, a multimedia weblog that aggregates Oromo, Ethiopian and Horn of African news. Oromsis writes regular news commentaries and Op-Eds on current issues that affect the Oromo people in Ethiopia.