Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, during discussions held with members of the Joint Political Parties National Council, said that there are plans to reform the Council adding that it will strengthen free flow of ideas.
“Members of the Council asked for the improvement of articles on the amended electoral law and to focus on having a national consensus,” Desta Tesfaw, head of Public and External Relations of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), told The Reporter.
Though the PM pledged to strengthen the Council, political parties that are not members of the Council are discontented labeling it as an undemocratic move.
“The meeting between the PM and members of the Council has nothing new to offer. They mainly raised mundane issues that both the government and the parties have discussed previously. The current situation the country is facing was not even tabled for discussion,” Tilahun Endeshaw, head of Public Relations of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek), told The Reporter.
By the same token, President of Semayawi (Blue) Party Yilekal Getnet (Eng.) argued that the meeting is more of a public relation stunt, which did not provide any solution to the current political problems.
“I don’t expect something concrete and different from the Council that was created by the ruling party to prolong its power,” Yilekal told The Reporter.
President of the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) Abebaw Mehari on his part highly criticized the discussion and said that the statement by the PM was discriminatory. “The PM boldly stated that parties in the Council will get financial assistance from the government and this is against the principle of building democratic institutions,” Abebaw said.
On the contrary, president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), Chane Kebede (PhD), argued that such discussions should be conducted frequently so as to narrow the differences between the ruling party and the opposition camp.
In this regard, Chane told The Reporter the PM’s statement regarding the strengthening of the Council is seen by his party as positive and constructive.
“Generally speaking, the discussions were fruitful and will strengthen the Council in the future. Amendments of laws and regulations is possible if they are supported by research,” Desta told The Reporter.
Concerning the criticisms forwarded by political parties that are not part of the Council, Desta said that membership is open to all parties. “However, criticisms from parties that are against the basic principles of the Council and keep blaming the ruling party, are not acceptable,” Desta counter-argued.
Parties also have different views concerning the issue of national consensus.
“We don’t want any kind of chaos in the country, therefore, to avoid such problems discussions shhould be conducted with all concerned bodies, political parties and civil societies. Discussing with a few parties cannot fix the problem once and for all,” Abebaw told The Reporter.
By the same token, Tilahun said that the discussions were not focused on major issues that matter to the country.
“Therefore, it is very difficult to accept that the outcome the discussions will pave the way for a national consensus,” Tilahun said.
However, the president of EDP is optimistic. “We will wait and see the results of the discussions. We have raised our concerns and the government has promised to solve the problems. In the past, problems in implementing the promises but we hope that government is committed this time around,” he said.
The PM also responded to various questions raised by the members of the Council. He also pledged to meet members of the council every six months to discuss major national issues.
The Joint Political Parties National Council is composed of nine parties that are signatories of the Code of Conduct. Major opposition parties including Blue, Medrek and AEUP are not members of the Council because of their differences over the code of conduct with the ruling party.