From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue May 18 2010 - 05:05:06 EDT
Experts Say There Will Be No Contest in Ethiopia's Upcoming Vote
Nico Colombant | Washington 17 May 2010
Horn of Africa experts in the United States say there will be no contest in
Ethiopia's parliamentary election Sunday. They say it will be unlike the
volatile vote in 2005, due to a diminished opposition and a ruling party
totally in control.
The last election in Ethiopia in 2005 was fiercely contested, and when the
opposition alleged there had been cheating in vote counting, riots broke out
and about 200 people, most of them opposition activists, were reported
Africa experts say the ruling party in Ethiopia made sure Sunday's upcoming
election will not repeat that pattern.
Oberlin College International Studies Professor Eve Sandberg says the
Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front has made sure its message
has been heard by would-be voters. "The current government has been using
the media, which they control in a non-stop way to broadcast programs, which
talk about how much better this regime is than the previous one and the fact
that at least they have built roads, and at least they have painted some
buildings, and at least people are not experiencing famine," she said.
Sandberg who recently worked as a political consultant in Ethiopia says, on
the other side of the political equation, the opposition has nearly
disappeared. "Their leaders are either in jail, in exile, or have resigned
because they cannot see any way forward. If they show they are in
opposition many of them find that police show up and they are either shot,
or detained or harassed," she said.
A series of campaign-related killings in Ethiopia has raised tensions and
sparked counter allegations between the government and opposition.
Examples of opposition leaders excluded from the process include Birtukan
Mideksa, who heads the Unity for Democracy and Justice. She is in jail
under a life sentence after an initial pardon for treason was revoked.
Berhanu Nega, who was elected as mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, was also
imprisoned during the post-election riots. He has since become a professor
in the United States and was sentenced to life in prison in absentia for
alleged coup plotting.
An expert on U.S.-Africa relations, who was in Ethiopia for the 2005 vote,
J. Peter Pham, says major figures of the opposition remaining in the race
are divided. "Hailu Shawul who led the opposition coalition the last time
around is being opposed by the deputy head of the old opposition, Hailu
Araya. They are facing off against each other for the same constituency,"
Terrence Lyons from George Mason University says he is disappointed, but not
surprised by current political conditions. He says competition is still
taking place within the ruling party. "Some of the folks who have been in
power for almost 20 years are retiring and a younger generation, some
perhaps more technocratic or more professional is coming up. There are
endless speculations about what might happen when and if Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi were to step down and who might be the successor. So, there are
a lot of those kinds of questions that are percolating now," he said.
A former rebel leader, Mr. Meles has been prime minister since 1995. All of
the experts interviewed for this report expect his party to win much more
easily than in the 2005 election.
The prime minister's supporters say he has done much more than recent
Ethiopian leaders in building up the country's economy, health and school
system, while also keeping a vast multi-ethnic society stable, even as
neighboring countries experienced repeated strife.
Somalia said to be in Constitutional Crisis
Peter Clottey 16 May 2010
The escalating political struggle in Somalia will embolden hard-line Islamic
insurgents, including al-Shabab, to launch fresh attacks to overthrow
President Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government, said political analyst Ali
He described the ongoing Somali political power struggle as a constitutional
crisis that needs immediate resolution.
"Of course it will. What you have in Somalia right now is we have a
constitutional crisis that has emanated from the charter of 2004, which was
not refined.what has happened is we have a power struggle that has boiled
down to a constitutional crisis," he said.
Legislators, supporting Prime Minister Omar Abdelrashid Ali Sharmarke,
announced the removal of the speaker of parliament shortly after he asked
the Somali president to form a new government following a vote of
In accordance with the Somali national charter, supporters of the prime
minister named Haji Shukri Sheikh Ahmed as interim speaker of parliament
replacing Sheik Aden Madobe.
But, analyst Abdullahi said the power struggle will encourage more insurgent
"As the way things are, this is going to assist the insurgents in such a way
that, whenever you have a power struggle, then, the insurgents become more
powerful," Abdullahi said.
President Ahmed's Transitional Federal Government has been battling
almost-daily with hard-line Islamic insurgents who have vowed to overthrow
the administration to implement the strictest form of the Sharia Law.
Abdullahi said the "untouched" Somali national charter is to blame for the
"The charter has not been refined at all, (and) the charter is vague on a
number of issues. Right now, who has the power to convene parliament? It is
the speaker of parliament. And, what he has done was to call his troops who
are the parliamentarians and he has said, 'Gentlemen, what is the agenda on
the table?' And, the agenda on the table was how efficient has the
government been and they voted it (government) out, and the prime minister
is out," Abdullahi said.
He also said deep rifts exist between President Ahmed and Prime Minister
Sharmarke, as well as deposed speaker of parliament Madobe.
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