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AEUP, EDP et al forge united front

Opposition political parties taking part in the ongoing negotiation with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) announced on Thursday the formation of a new alliance comprising of 12 opposition political parties, out of the 15 parties in the negotiation.

The parties are expected to conduct their second-round negotiation in the first week of the Ethiopian New Year, and are expected to haggle over Proclamation No. 532/2007, viz., the Amended Electoral Law of Ethiopia.

The parties announced the formation of an alliance at a press conference held at the head office of the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) located in the vicinity of Tewodros Square. The merging parties took part in the first round of negotiations separately or in different groups, but have now decided to negotiate as one.

The members of the alliance include the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP), Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

Accordingly, the alliance named Chane Kebede (PhD) of EDP, Mulugeta Abebe of AEUP and Tigistu Awelu of UDJ to represent it in the upcoming negotiations.

“We want the negotiation to bring something tangible both for the public, for the democratization process and for the country and that’s why we came together and agreed to present our issues and questions homogeneously,” Mulugeta Abebe, vice chair of AEUP, said at the press conference.

Similarly, chairman of UDJ Tigistu Awelu asserted that presenting issues and questions homogenously is a plus for the opposition parties than doing so fragmented.

Of 111 articles subsumed in Proclamation 532/2007, the parties took issues with some 25 articles and 43 sub-articles, and according to Tigistu, the opposition parties have agreed to suggest amendments to some 28 articles, discard nine articles and to incorporate eight new articles.

According to sources, the articles that the parties want to discard include: Article 49 on “Determination of Number of Candidates” (1)The number of candidates running for election to the House of People’s Representatives in a constituency shall not exceed 12. (2) Where the number of candidates exceeds 12, political parties shall be made to register first. (3) Where the number of candidates nominated by political parties exceeds 12, priority shall be given to not more than six political parties that received the highest votes in the previous election. (4) The remaining political organizations shall be determined by lot. (5) Where the number of candidates nominated by political parties is less than 12, the remaining places shall be filled by private candidates who received the highest votes in the previous election. (6) Where there are candidates who received equal votes in the previous election, they shall be determined by lots. (7) The number of candidates nominated to state councils or to other levels shall be determined by the Board. Where the number of candidates is more than that decided by the Board, it shall be determined in accordance with sub articles (3), (4) and (5) of this Article as appropriate. Lots to determine candidates in accordance with this Article shall be drawn in the presence of the candidates concerned or their legal representatives.

Article 61(1) on “Places Forbidden for Campaigning Activities,”Campaigning activities shall not be carried out at the following places: a) churches; b) mosques; c) military camps and police stations; d) within 500 meter radius of educational institutions during the conduct of classes; e) within 500 meter radius of official market places in rural and urban areas where marketing takes place daily or during some fixed days f) governmental and public institutions during working hours; g) places and areas where public meetings are being conducted.

On Election Observers78 (2), without prejudice to international conventions to which the country is a party, the government may invite foreign observers as deemed necessary. Apart from this, the parties also want to discard Article 6(2), 7(14), 15(1), 24(4) from the proclamation.

It is to be recalled that during the opening of the previous sessions of parliament, both the president and the PM promised to revise many rules and regulations that created a hindrance in the day-to-day activities of opposition political parties and both promised changes to the electoral system. Hence, negotiations over this proclamation might give a glimpse as to whether those promises will be fulfilled or not.

Weeks ago, the ruling party and some 16 opposition parties agreed to amend the existing Revised Political Parties’ Registration Proclamation No. 573/2008.