Ethiopian Oppositions give mixed review on televised debate

Ethiopia National Election Board
Ethiopia is due to hold national elections on May 23, 2010.
Ethiopia National Election Board
Ethiopia is due to hold national elections on May 23, 2010.

By Haile Mulu and Seblewongel Habtamu, Reporter

Opposition parties taking part in the May 23 national elections gave mixed reviews on the effectiveness and the level of their satisfaction on the televised debates that have been taking place for eight weeks now.

The Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) and the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) say that they have found the debates that have been airing every week on different topics to be an effective way of reaching a wide audience in the country.

On the other hand, the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Forum) says that the time allocated for opposition parties during the debates was too small and was insufficient for it to publicize its agendas adequately.

Lidetu Ayalew, President of EDP, said that the televised debates have played a big role in changing the bad perception that has been created about his party within the public. “We knew that people would eventually change their attitude about our party, but we didn’t expect that the change would be this drastic,” he said.

He said that the change in attitude was very visible during meetings held in four cities in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region of the country where it had huge turnouts. “People have started to understand that all the things said about us were fallacious,” he added.

Assefa Habtewolde, deputy president of AEUP, on his part said that the debates have helped them not only to reach a larger audience in the country, but abroad as well. “We have benefited from the free airtimes. We have received many phone calls and emails of encouragement from here and abroad,” he said.

He added that AEUP had plans to hold large rallies in Addis Ababa, Kaliti, Gondar and Woldiya.

Contrary to the praise given by EDP and AEUP, Dr. Negaso Gidada, the public relations head of Forum said that his party had not benefited from televised debates as much as it should have as the time allocated to opposition parties was very small. “Most of the airtime has been allocated to the ruling party. There is not enough time for us to say our thoughts,” he said.

He added that Forum is using the debates as small openings through which it tries to pass on its ideas. He further added that the recurring power outages have made it hard for Forum to reach audiences across the nation who miss the televised debated due to the interruption.