Few but Robust Political Parties

Under the new leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has embarked on a number of extensive and comprehensive reforms touching upon the socio-economic and political endeavors of the nation.

Among other things, the release of thousands of prisoners, allowing exiled political parties to return and peacefully pursue their political agenda, the peace agreement that ended a two decades stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea, swift moves to synergize and heighten bilateral relationships with neighboring countries and the decision passed by the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to fully privatize major public enterprises including Ethio-telecom, Ethiopian Airlines, and Sugar Factories are worth mentioning.

Let me share with you a social media viral posted on the social media in the form of humor about warm public receptions extended to different political parties upon their return from abroad over the last couple of weeks.

Someone tells a friend, New Year is coming after 14 days. The response was where has it been pursuing its struggle. I think this is not a mere joke but a message that hits the bulls' eye about the myriad of political parties in the country.

Currently, there are about 62 political parties that are registered by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia excluding more than 20 political parties that for years have been in exile for various reasons. The total numbers of political parties, including those who have recently returned and expect to officially register are roughly estimated at 100. Albeit social, political, economic, cultural formation, language and ethnic multiplicity among counties, I personally think that it is hard to find a country with such a high number of political parties.

Dr. Aregawi Berhe, who returned back to Ethiopia after spending four decades or more in the Netherlands admittedly said of course Ethiopia is a multicultural society and there needs to be a system that represents every citizen, however, past governments were not representative governments they were representing a small section of the society. For this reason we could not establish a political system or state that can benefit and represent the whole society.

Mentioning that it was these drawbacks the country has faced over the years, he presumes the absence of political system or state that cannot represent every citizen in the country for an extended period of time played a role for exponentially large number of parties to evolve in many parts of the country.

Disproving the undesirability of exceeding number of political parties for countless reasons, Dr. Aregawi described it as Confusing the political process of the country that has to be addressed meticulously.

According to him, to do this, left leaning, right leaning or centrist political parties should come together to unite based on their programs resting in three basic political pillars, namely revolutionary democracy, social democratic, and liberal democratic parties.

Parties should take the initiative for conglomeration of views and appear as limited number of political organizations after that we can reach out for the people and hand over our programs, thus our people will not be confused for they will have two or three options to choose instead of 90 or more, he articulated.

Oromo Liberation Front Central Committee member, Kejela Merdassa who recently returned after 27 years exile in Eritrea lauds the ongoing reforms as good opportunity towards transcending the country into another new chapter while stressing the need of devising pertinent mechanisms to reduce the number political parties.

He elaborated that the existence of close to 100 political parties, leads to dividing voters support and worse it may also result in dividing the people with regard to the different political view they uphold instead of converging their strength within unity.

According to Kejela, continuous close collaboration and dialogues among all opposition political parties is key to opening the windows of hope for them to merge and ultimately reduce the number and the surprisingly attention denied of unfamiliarity with the people.

He said I think four strong political parties and not more, is quite substantial and helpful for Ethiopia, the OLF CC member affirmed that his party will stand firm and pursue its peaceful political struggle to realize a country in which the human, democratic rights as well as the unconditional right to self determination of citizens is respected.

However, the process of merging political parties might not be a bed of roses as parties might come up with the idea of sticking to the usual and ineffective procedure, Kejela said and added that his party believes that the idea of reducing the number of political parties for the greater good of the country and its citizens needs to be accepted in principle if it cannot be materialized as it ought to be.

To put it in a nut shell, with the ultimate goal of uplifting the political, socio-economic of a nation as well as changing the livelihoods of citizens number of political parties need to bridge the gaps and reach a consensus of setting few and strong political organizations that can address public queries and demands. Government and concerned stakeholders should take the initiative towards creating the platform whereby everyone adds constructive ideas in reducing the number of political parties and setting the mechanism for strong and inclusive political atmosphere.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency