Victorious EPDRF: magnanimous but no gullible.

By Dilwenberu Nega
May 28 2010

The very fact that Ethiopia’s fourth elections to the House of People’s Representatives and to State Council were conducted in a transparent, free, fair and peaceful manner on the eve of its National Day on May 28th, is yet another testimony that the sacrifices which “The Martyrs of “Ginbot Haya” had paid was not in vain. It is also an added proof that secular and pluralistic democracy are growing from strength to strength in tandem with good governance.

Now Ethiopians have made their will known through an election, the result of which has been acknowledged even by the usual coterie of cynics, it has become all the more imperative for the opposition parties to accept the outcome of the freely contested elections with grace, or opt to use their one and only remaining life-line by taking recourse to legal action. The preferred choice, of course, would be for them to accept their defeat gracefully and embark on a post-mortem similar to the one EPDRF embarked upon after it suffered EPDRF voter meltdown in Addis in 2005. However, expecting a modicum amount of seasoned leadership from a mongrelised opposition notorious for intentionally misinterpreting the will of the voters, not to mention, its penchant for rocking the boat at elections, might seem an exercise in futility. Some opposition party leaders have now opted to scale up their stance on the election from one of ventilating their interminable grumblings to one of rejecting the election result and calling for a rerun of elections.

So far these opposition leaders are acting within their statutory rights. The concern of the public, however, is what if the law court rules against their demand for a rerun of elections. Would they, then, accept the ruling with grace and call it a day, or would they resort to street violence and provoke security forces into taking unsavoury measures, the reaction of which would cause great instability throughout Ethiopia. If any of them happen to be toying with this course of action, then they can be confident of the full weight of the law descending on them like the Patriot Missile. Millions of Ethiopians are today taking part in rallies up and down the country to express their condemnation to election related violence, to call on opposition parties not to be bad losers by rejecting their votes, and to vehemently denounce attempts by the so-called Human Rights Watch to overturn their votes.

It is, of course, undeniable that the election result caught EPDRF by a pleasant surprise, and left the likes of Medrek flummoxed and outraged.

Though EPDRF was cock-sure that the electorate would this time round vote with their heads and not with their hearts, little did it forecast that the ensuing tsunami would totally wipe-out the opposition from the House of People’s Representatives. The opposition’s expectation, on the other hand, had all along focused on a mix bag of hope against hope, and of unmitigated tomfoolery. They knew in their heart of hearts that fragmented and weak oppositions were no match to strong and united EPDRF. Moreover, to out-EPDRF-EPDRF in terms of resource, membership and an edge incumbents are believed to have over their rivals, was by itself, a gargantuan task, the wherewithal of which was in very short supply in the oppositions’ camp. Add to this Medrek’s undue reliance on the vocal Diaspora’s meaningless bail-out pledge, and you have a an instant death-inducing lethal cocktail.

Though EPDRF’s stunning victory warranted street party in the capital, austere and no-nonsense EPDRF would have none of it. It instead dispatched a high-powered delegation to Meskel Square where close to half a million residents from from Addis Ababa and its environs had converged to congratulate EPDRF on its stunning victory, and to send an unequivocal “Hands off Ethiopia” message to the so-called Human Rights Watch. It was here that humble, but not humbled Meles, gave the ‘Sermon of Meskel Square’ - a speech like never before, delivered in a style and manner which portrayed the human side of Meles, and the magnanimous streak of EPDRF. Speaking in remorse mode, Meles opened up his heart to the crowd by citing EPDRF’s reaction back in 2005 “You, Addis Ababans, denied us your votes because you were offended by the mistakes we committed at different levels. You, I hope, would recall that we had promptly accepted gracefully your verdict. Instead of glossing over its mistakes, EPDRF chose to perform a post-mortem with the view to rectifying our wrongs and to regaining your trust and confidence. Today, the fruit of this process of rectification is visible in our economic development endeavours, in the on-going work of building a veritable democratic order in tandem with the adopting good governance at national level.”

On the possibility of the nation back-sliding into election related violence he reminded the world “the clarion call of the Ethiopian peoples, as made supremely evident in this election, is that they cannot and will not subscribe to any form of the politics of hate. Ethiopians have this day chosen the party with a vision of a better tomorrow and have turned their back on those who continue to peddle revenge and discord.” He also highlighted some of the machinations some opposition parties had used to “mar and discredit the electoral process.” “They tried to cause delay by instructing their observers to arrive late at polling stations.

“They have tried to disrupt queues, shout and cry so that voters get shaken and turn back from voting.

“They have been caught red handed entering polling station armed with a hand grenade.

They have succeeded in snatching ballot papers after the count.”

And this who wish to impose their will on Ethiopians: “Please give respect to our sovereign right to elect leaders of our choice.

Meles Zenawi concluded his speech by offering an olive branch – and not a consolation prize - to opposition parties who no longer have a seat in Parliament: “The Government promises to consult you on major national issues.” This cannot and must not be interpreted to mean, as a journalist from the local media implied during yesterday’s Prime Ministerial Press Conference, a request to join the Government. What it means in layman’s term is that (God forbid) in the event of war or national emergency the Government would deem it proper to consult with the opposition. Although consulting with unelected groups is deemed undemocratic, the Government came to the conclusion that it had to show due respect to “the decorum and civility with which opposition supporters exercised their democratic right to vote,” by offering a goodwill gesture.

EPDRF has shown that magnanimity follows victory. But let no one be fooled into thinking that EPDRF’s gestures amount to panic or to appease an incorrigible opposition. The greatest mistake an observer of the Ethiopian scene can commit is to regard EPDRF as gullible.