Tigrai Online - July 09, 2013
Distance running great Haile Gebrselassie is entering politics and may now run for president of Ethiopia — even if his wife is not sure it’s a good idea.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and multiple world champion in the 10,000 meters told The Associated Press Monday he wants to “reach more people” through politics, a topic most Ethiopians avoid in their restrictive, closely-watched society.
The “big mistake” would be to stay out of politics and miss the chance to do something to help, the famous runner said.
“We are here in our country, Ethiopia. And as long as we live here, we should play our part. We have to sort (out) any problems we have,” Gebrselassie said.
The 40-year-old is used to breaking barriers, having set over two dozen world records in distances ranging from 5,000 meters to the marathon. He said he will run for a seat in parliament as an independent candidate in 2015, a big deal in Ethiopia where there is just one opposition member in parliament.
The next presidential election in September is probably “too soon,” but he said he was considering a future run for that largely ceremonial post so he could use it to unite and promote his East African country.
Gebrselassie is not completely new to this game, either, having helped set up a group called the Elders Council, which brokered peace between the ruling party and opponents following postelection violence in 2005 that left hundreds dead and led to opposition leaders being jailed. Gebrselassie’s influence helped free them.
Gebrselassie said that while his wife and other family members are wary of Ethiopian politics, he thinks it’s an important next move to make.
“Some people are advising me against it. Others say it’s a wonderful idea,” he said. “I respect all opinions . I believe as long as my intentions are positive, you have to support it.”
Asked if he would accept a surprise election to the presidency in September, an office which is voted on by the two elective houses, he replied swiftly and with an impish grin: “Do you have information I don’t?”