On the 18th of January 2017, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) held a first round of discussions with 22 national political parties operating legally in Ethiopia. This meeting comes a few days after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn disclosed that the dialogue with political parties was set to begin soon.
This discussion was a first step which will pave the way for an upcoming dialogue. The EPRDF and the 22 other political parties have agreed to come up with their own proposal for the upcoming dialogue within the next two weeks and submit their proposals to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR).
According to Shiferaw Shigute, Head of the Office of the EPRDF, the coalition has been expressing willingness to work closely with political parties on national issues, acknowledging its weakness in the past in this regard.
Noting there are other entities in addition to political parties willing to work together with EPRDF, Shiferaw said the Party is keen to cooperate with different sections of the society, academicians and civic societies.
This political dialogue comes at a crucial time for Ethiopia. After unprecedented and violent protests during the year 2016 in some regions of the country, a state of emergency was declared on 8 October 2016 and effectively restored peace and calm on Ethiopia’s territory.
To address the legitimate grievances of the population on the long-term, authorities engaged in a series of far-reaching political and economical reforms aiming at correcting shortcomings and solving the root causes of the protests, like fighting corruption, reforming the electoral system so that the voices of those who are not represented can also be heard in the Parliament.
The proposals seek to offer a more representative electoral system and will be spearheaded by the Prime minister. Touching upon reforming the electoral system, the Premier said that « we felt that the coming parliament should also accommodate those who are not represented ». Electoral law will also be reformed to introduce an element of proportional representation into the majority rule.
Regarding the opening the democratic space, PM Hailemariam also noted the government thoroughly understood the importance of strengthening democratic institutions, particularly on pertinent organs like Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, Office of the Federal Auditor General, Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and also to enhance civic participation and political dialogue.