Ethiopian Ambassador to Ireland, Zerihun Retta
hits back at detractors of the election!

By Ambassador Zerihun Retta

Madam, – For a member of Ethiopia’s chaotic opposition party UDJ, Hailu Araaya, to tell your correspondent, Jody Clark, (World News, July 3rd) about the fourth national election of Ethiopia amply demonstrates UDJ’s deliberate attempt to discredit the outcome of May’s elections by jet-hosing foreigners, in particular, with fabrications and outright lies.

The truth, however, is a galaxy away from Mr Araaya’s portrayal of the rights accorded to all the 63 contesting parties who fielded 6,979 candidates for Ethiopia’s elections to the House of People’s Representatives and State Councils in May. Out of 31, 926,520 who registered to vote 29,832,190 (93.4 per cent) had cast their votes in a peaceful, free and fair manner. This is no mean feat for a fledgling democracy like ours.

The authenticity of the election results that gave the ruling EPDRF an impressive landslide victory has not been doubted even by EU and AU observer missions, let alone by the Ethiopian electorate. During the election, all opposition parties were seen enjoying access to state media, barnstorming in town halls, hotels and school assembly halls, and holding rallies in towns and cities throughout Ethiopia. Given the transparency of the electoral process, and the fact that Ethiopia now is an open society, “the culture of fear” that Mr Araaya talked about could only be a figment of his imagination.

After the elections, millions throughout Ethiopia held public rallies to express their joy as well as to underline that they were the rightful owners of the electoral process. This reflected the extent to which the peoples of Ethiopia took the process seriously.

Now, there appears to be a near-unanimous agreement among stakeholders in the political process to view the election results in a favourable light, irrespective of the relative performance of the contending parties. Even the government’s staunchest detractors within the opposition seem to have come to terms with the assessment that the results are as much a reflection of the incumbent’s track record in development as they are the result of people’s disenchantment with the zero-sum politics of the opposition.

To the extent that the rather wide margin by which the incumbent won the election is relevant, it is in the unequivocal message it sends out to both the winners and losers alike, that the mandate of the peoples of Ethiopia can be won only by a proven commitment to improving their lot through hard work rather than by mere sloganeering and propagation of hate.

Those who might doubt the sincerity of the people’s resolve for democracy and good governance are in for a disappointment. It would also be wrong to conclude that the landslide victory of the ruling party would bring to an end multi-party democracy in the country. If parallels should be drawn it would be with the possibility of the sort of dominant party system that operated for decades in Sweden or in Japan, or even Mexico, where one party consistently obtained massive majorities.

As the prime minister reiterated, Ethiopia will continue as a multi-party state, for our constitution explicitly guarantees the right to organise into political parties. Moreover, the government is looking at ways of consulting the main opposition parties on burning national issues, in tandem with ensuring their continued participation in the all-party talks.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has lauded the decision and goodwill of EPRDF (ruling party) to work with opposition parties despite the fact they don’t have seats in the parliament.

Therefore, UDJ’s preoccupation with its interminable wolf-cry which started long before Ethiopians had cast their votes, should not come as a surprise. Its continued obsession with fabricating allegations is a futile attempt to discredit the verdict of the majority.

The truth is that the Minister has had fruitful discussions with high-level Ethiopian government officials, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and State Minister Dr Tekeda Alemu, in a cordial manner, to the satisfaction of both parties, covering local and regional issues. The ethos governing our relations with all our development partners is governed by a sense of partnering. All sides want to foster constructive engagement to bolster the existing relationships by encompassing trade and investment.


Ambassador Extraordinary and
Embassy of the Federal
Democratic Republic of
Upper Fitzwilliam Street,

Dublin 2.