EPRDF behind closed doors

Ethiopian Ruling Party, EPRDF
Ethiopian Ruling Party, EPRDF

By Bruh Yihunbelay, Reporter

The Ethiopian political scene is currently undergoing a series of transformations, some of them being particularly exceptional. The most recent one is the provisional results of the national and regional elections which gave the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) 91 percent of the total number of seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR). Another unanticipated occurrence is the move taken by the EPRDF which the party labeled as ‘replacement’ of senior members or a succession plan’. That too has engrossed the attention of many. The solemnity of the evolution, according to sources who requested anonymity, was highly deliberated with the aim of on introducing change within the party’s hub for some three years.

This move was reiterated in Addis Raey, the party’s organ. The periodical claims in its July 2009 edition that the EPRDF has put in place a system that allows it to select and replace party leaders in a careful manner and that this is a key criteria to measure the democratic nature of the party. Mainly focusing on the most senior members who were comrades-in-arms in the fight to overthrow the Derg regime, the replacement affair has swept through the party and led to the retirement of some of the top brass.

Although the publication claims that there have been broad leadership changes over the years in the four member organizations of the EPRDF, i.e., the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Front (SEPDF), its side of the argument has hardly been recognized by those in the opposition and some political analysts in academic circles time and again.

The alteration that was applied before the 2010 elections focused on calling it a day for some of the some of the central committee members of the EPRDF, particularly from the TPLF and ANDM. Seyoum Mesfin, Abadi Zemu, Arkebe Oqubay, Tsegaye Berhe, and Tewodros Hagos from the TPLF leaving Meles Zenawi, Abay Tsehaye, Abay Woldu and Dr. Tewodros Adnanom untouched.

From ANDM, Addisu Legesse, Bereket Simon, Tefera Walwa and Tadesse Kassa joined the leaving ranks. Ayalew Gobeze, Demeke Mekonnen, Tefera Deribew, Gedu Andargachew and Birhan Hailu were allowd to stay on. The leadership of the remaining two organizations, OPDO and SEPDF, were left intact. Focusing on the ones who were pioneering leaders of the party, the change was wonderment for many.

After the EPRDF decided not to deploy the party’s long serving bigwigs like Deputy Prime Minister Addisu Legesse, foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin and Bereket Simon to run for the elections, pundits described the move as being one that came in the nick of time.

And after these transformations another expectation has started to arise on the side of the public.
Currently, the EPRDF is deliberating behind closed doors on the next step. Who to appoint to what post and to which office is an agenda that will have a significant impact for the coming five years. The next step is considered as a million-dollar question by some people. One of those who is fervently eager to know how things will pan out is Mekonnen Tadesse, 34, A bank clerk who ponders on “who is going to be what?” in the government that is going to be formed in October of this year when he thinks about politics.

Without denying his lack of knowledge of the succession plan that the EPRDF has carried out, Mekonnen is eager to know who is going to be appointed to some of the key ministerial positions with some concerns on the choice that might be made.

“I am usually not sure about the appointment of ministers, that is, whether you could hire a non-technical ‘person’ to fill a position that requires a technical cognoscenti and particularity,” he said.

As far as ministerial appointment is concerned, the answer to Mekonnen’s question lays in the hands of the EPRDF officials. Whether that can be done successfully having a solid structure in place is yet to be seen.

Despite Mekonnen’s lack of orientation or knowledge, it is predominantly imperative this time around.

So far, although the EPRDF has made a number of appointments that were considered as unexpected by some, key posts like the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were the least altered. However, this time – assuming the provisional results of the elections remain unchanged – the country is going to have a new face in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office and the Foreign Minister’s office, which was comfortably held by Seyoum Mesfin for the last 19 years.

“At first I felt very sad to hear that Seyoum [Mesfin] was not going to be a minister any longer, however, he has served for a long time and it is time for him to rest now,” says Shewit Tsegaye, a housewife and mother of three.

She believes that there will be no “shoddy” nomination of ministers as it is an important political measure. She points out that officials should be able to make appointments appropriately and hopes the selection process will be fine-tuned.
“I think that the idea of just-filling-in-the-blank of the vacancies with whatever crop of candidates nominated by the political stalwart will not lift the country to greater heights,” Shewit said.