Landslide Victory Poses Threat on Multi-Party Democracy
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) revealed that the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its affiliates have won 442 federal parliamentary seats out of 547 in votes counted so far.
According to the preliminary results, no parliamentary seats have, so far, gone to the opposition. This landslide victory of the EPRDF and its affiliates poses threat on multi-party democracy system of the nation for opposition groups and political commentators.
After the board announced the preliminary results of 442 seats, opposition parties, once again, criticized the multi-party democracy system by saying the results show the failure of the system. Some political commentators also argued that the 2015 election preliminary results testify the end of multi-party democracy system in Ethiopia. But Redwan Hussein, Minister of Government Communication Affairs Office, rejects this claim.
“The basic and main thing for having a multi-party democracy system is having the legal infrastructure. If we have this legal infrastructure, we can have a strong opposition at any given time,” Redwan said.
Eyob Balacha, a PhD candidate in Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester, argued that multi-party democracy system is not about having multiple parties, but rather about establishing a system in which these multiple parties function in an institutionalized, trustworthy and credible process. Eyob believes in the numbers instead; it is the legitimacy and acceptance of the system and the process that matters in order to establish a multi-party democracy system.
“In Ethiopia, what we have is a de facto dominant party system which emanates from the Revolutionary Democracy ideology that EPRDF has been following to consolidate its power. This route of having a dominant party that oversees socio-economic and political transformation is now further justified by the recent development narratives around the developmental state,” Eyob further argued.
On the other hand, Redwan believes the fact that the opposition parties could not float alternatives, coupled with EPRDF track record lead to the landslide victory for his party
“Even though some citizens are not happy with us, they still dare to vote for us since there are no alternatives by the oppositions,” he stressed.
To the contrary, Eyob stated that the establishment of multiple layers and structures of public mobilization made the EPRDF effective in controlling, deceiving, punishing as well as benefiting citizens in major regions of the country. Eyob claimed that there is no difference between state structures and party structures and in most cases the ruling party interests have always been prioritized at the expense of any other interests. The 1-to-5 model, the Development Army/Committees, the Youth League, Women’s League, Inhabitants Forum (mainly in Addis Ababa) created a favorable ground for EPRDF to win the 2015 election. Redwan, on his part, said the ruling party mainly focuses on farmers, middle and lower class societies which awarded success for the EPRDF.
Merga Bekana (Prof.), Chairman of NEBE, underscored that there was tough competition among contending political parties, which shows that a multi-party democracy system exists in Ethiopia.
“Our job is to create the playing ground. We are successful in doing that. The rest is up to the citizens to judge the political parties,” he stated.
Addisu Gebregziabher (PhD), Deputy Chairman of NEBE, claimed that the election debates in which all parties float their ideas to the voters are a typical showcase for the multi-party democracy system. On top of that he stated that the results also testify to the existence of the multi-party democracy system since opposition groups got huge popular votes. He explained that the result in East Shoa is a such a case where Medrek got 12,834 and EPRDF got 40,357. But some political commentators don’t buy Addisu’s argument. They argue that the difference between the ruling party and the opposition is still very huge in most of the polling stations. They took the results of the polling stations where the prime minister run as a case to show where the oppositions got zero votes.
Redwan told The Reporter that EPRDF will continue to deliver more on governance and access to government services to get the popular votes. But Eyob does not think EPRDF has the natural capacity and willingness to incorporate concerns from the opposition. He recommended the opposition parties to work hard with a better strategy to keep these “huge popular votes” and capitalize on them with a short term and long term plan.
According to the preliminary results, the EPRDF and affiliates have secured close to 81 percent of the parliamentary seats. EPRDF has also secured a landslide victory in Addis Ababa, winning all 23 constituencies. In Oromia, OPDO (Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization) has won 150 seats out of the 178 constituencies for the region. From 123 constituencies in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, SEPDM (Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement) has won 95 seats. In Amhara, ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement) has won 107 out of 138 constituencies.
From the 38 constituencies in the Tigray region, TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front) has won 31 seats. These are all preliminary results.