EPDRF’s massive landslide victory does not
under any stretch of the imagination portray
the swansong of multi-party democracy in Ethiopia.

By Dilwenberu Nega
June 10 2010

Ethiopia - an oasis of peace and stability in a troubled Horn of Africa - held its fourth national elections to the House of People’s Representatives and State Councils on the 23rd May 2010. The turnout was huge by any standard, as close to 32 million Ethiopians (87% of eligible voters) cast their votes in 44.000 polling stations. The presence of Ethiopian Government invited European Union (EU EOM) and African Union Observer Mission (AU EOM) as well as a large army of local voluntary organizations and CSOs was conspicuous across the nation. As preliminary results (final result due on the 22nd June) started to be made public by a recently souped-up National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), the sheer size of EPDRF’s landslide victory caught everyone by surprise. Though an EPDRF win was predicted, a tsunami of such magnitude that it completely wiped-out Ethiopia’s goulash opposition parties from the electoral map of Ethiopia at least for the life time of this parliament, was deemed by many a futile exercise in surrealism.

All agree that the result represented the freely expressed will of voters. While EU EOM’s Interim Report did make largely unsubstantiated claims of harassment of opposition supporters in the lead up to the Election, it did not dare to challenge the authenticity of the Election results. Ethiopians need no reminding by a foreign election guru of the glaring truth that electoral processes in both developed and developing countries, especially so where democratic culture is still at its infancy and where the electoral process itself is technologically challenged; elections cannot be immune to periodic manifestations of flaws and irregularities. After all, “Democracy” as American journalist and writer, Irving Kristol, once argued, “does not guarantee equality of conditions; it only guarantees equality of opportunity.” That explains why the EPDRF’s government’s attention over the years was focused on building democratic institutions, on broadening the political space, on ensuring that there exists a level playing field at all times and not only at elections, on making the state media available to all opposition parties and on making funds available to opposition parties election campaign.

Cynicism of the Government’s commitment to multi-party democracy, then, would not be wrong, but mistaken. This is so for not only had EPDRF paid Moloch-like sacrifices for the prevalence of pluralistic democracy in Ethiopia during the liberation years, but because it today genuinely believes that in a veritable democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable.

Two weeks after the Election dust has settled, and with Ethiopians accepting the verdict of the majority of voters with grace, some foreign critics and their cheer-leaders from the Ethiopian vocal Diaspora are breast-beating about the presumed death of multi-party democracy in Ethiopia. This farcical display of mourning can only be a futile exercise in damage limitation. They know in their heart-of-hearts that voters had rejected opposition parties because of their demerits, and not because they were wooed, cajoled, intimidated or harassed by EPDRF. Voters could not continue to put up with the endless bickering amongst opposition parties who spent the entire election campaign highlighting EPDRF’s presumed short-comings and nothing about what they intend to do once elected. Incidentally, no one articulated the disdain Ethiopian voters have for the opposition-at-large better than the interminable de facto party ideologue of hate politics, Prof Al Mariam, who in his weekly Monday sermon lambasted the leaders in words hitherto unheard of from opposition supporters in the Diaspora. Add to this the gallimaufry (gooramailay) and fragmented nature of the opposition and what you get is a golden opportunity for strong and united EPDRF to eskista its way through to success.

It is, nevertheless, unfortunate that EPDRF has become victim of its own success story, and is getting blamed for the opposition’s poor election campaign and for their inadequacies. Where in the world, then, do you see blame being placed on a party which has won an impressive landslide victory? Surely, this cannot be right, and must not pass unchallenged. Those foreign NGOs intent on fishing in troubled-waters, and their political bedfellows from the Ethiopian Diaspora are leaving no stone unturned to discredit the Election result.

The opposition parties in Ethiopia know only too well that they can no longer hoodwink the Ethiopian voter into rejecting the verdict of the majority. With NEBE rejecting Medrek’s and AEUP’s request for a rerun of the Election, and with morale among their supporters at an all time low, these opposition parties have been burning the mid-night oil to come up with some sort of a face-saving device. Failure to come up with a win-win formula has left Medrek and AEUP in the doldrums. To them, salvation comes not from faith in the Ethiopian people and the work they do, but from foreign intervention. That is why we have started observing a flurry of activities by the avatars of hate politics as they jet-hose the international community with their omelette of fabrications and outright lies in an attempt to arm-lock the Government of Ethiopia into accepting a rerun of the Election. What are mind boggling here is the realisation that the toxic Diaspora’s gaggle of Ethiopian Professors, Doctors and Engineers continue repeating the same mistakes they made during the aftermath of the 2005 National Elections? Then their trans-continental “Stop Aid to Ethiopia” crusade had boomeranged against them and left them in disarray. They failed then because the people and Government of Ethiopia refused to be dormant to their evil machinations, and door-mat to power-mongers. That staunch resolve not to sneeze every time a super power takes a snuff, and not to get pneumonia every time London, Washington, Paris or Brussels, etc catches cold is very much alive and kicking today in the people and Government of Ethiopia as it had been when they first started the tortuous journey of reinventing Ethiopia into a modern, secular and pluralistic democracy 19 years ago. Hands off Ethiopia!