By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan
Addis Abeba, June 11/2020 – Opposition parties Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have opposed the decision of the House of Federation (HoF) on June 10 to extend the term limit of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) until after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared no longer a threat to public safety and elections took place within 9 to 12 months subsequently.
The HoF in its 5th year, 2nd regular session approved the recommendations
submitted by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry (CCI) to the Constitutional Interpretation and Identity sub-committee of the House on May 29. The CCI recommended extension of term limits of both the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR), the HoF, and Regional Councils after Ethiopia called off the general elections scheduled to take place on August 29 this year.
In statements released yesterday and today, both OLF, OFC and ONLF respectively denounced the “unilateral decision” and warned that Ethiopia was entering a phase that would usher in a dangerous political crisis.
“We would like to express our concern that large-scale mass uprisings which could transform into violence may arise, and this will not only take us back to square one, it will also be difficult to contain for a government already dealing with multiple socio-economic and public health challenges,” reads the joint statement from OLF and OFC.
“Now that the government has taken this unilateral decision despite clear warnings by opposition parties the ONLF wishes to affirm that Ethiopia is entering a more dangerous political phase which can only be described as a sudden and profound halt in the democratization process,” reads the statement from ONLF.
Below are the full statements from the three parties:
Joint statement by OLF & OFC on the illegal Extension Term of Government
We would like to express our dismay with the decision of the House of Federation to extend the term of office of the government. It is an illegal and illegitimate act that not only violates the constitution but also endangers the peace and stability of the country. It is to be recalled that from the outset we have been expressing our view that the constitution does not allow the extension of the government’s term of office and had proposed and submitted an alternative solution.
Despite our objection and submission of alternative solutions, the ruling party stubbornly continued with a unilateral action, by making the House of People’s Representative refer the matter to the Council of Constitutional Inquiry (CCI). The Council undertook a disingenuous process whereby experts advocating the ruling party’s position were invited while amicus brief submissions by those holding a different opinion were excluded from the hearing. Moreover, principles of avoiding conflict of interest were violated. Hence, it is not surprising at all that the final decision reflected the ruling party’s initial position.
One of the basic features of representative democracy is that elections take place at regular intervals and elected officials remain in office only for a specific period of time, and step down after completing their term of office. It is remembered that Ethiopia’s General election was originally scheduled for 29 August 2020 by the Ethiopian National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. Later the Board declared that it would not be able to conduct elections due to prohibitions of movement and gathering by the government to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. We expressed our concern at the time that suspending General elections in the absence of any provisions in the constitution that would allow for the postponement of an election would lead to a constitutional crisis, and that any activity after September 2020 without a newly elected HoPR will violate the five-year term clearly set by the constitution. Articles 54(1) and 58(3) of the constitution and article 7 of the Electoral law which stipulates elections to be held every five years do not show flexibility with regard to election period.
The current constitution of Ethiopia was ratified in 1995 which introduced a multiparty democracy system to Ethiopia allowing for the realization of regular elections in the country. Guided by the principle of ensuring the people’s rights to political participation in matters of governance, the constitution defines political pluralism as the guiding principle of Ethiopian democracy. The rights and duties of political parties derived from the constitution are also included in the political party law of the country.
Operating within the parameters of the aforementioned laws and principles the multiparty landscape in the country today includes registered, credible and active political parties. Therefore, we strongly oppose the unilateral decision to extend the mandate of regional and federal legislators by a single party. The decision by the House of Federation will exacerbate the discontent of the public, which has already overflown due to broken promises by the current government. We would like to express our concern that large-scale mass uprisings which could transform into violence may arise, and this will not only take us back to square one, it will also be difficult to contain for a government already dealing with multiple socio economic and public health challenges.
It is regrettable that our proposal and other proposals presented by many opposition parties and citizens that called for inclusive dialogue for political settlement to prevent a constitutional crisis after September 2020, are totally disregarded by the ruling party. We believe that the ruling Party’s unilateral decision of extending the term of office of its own government is a sheer violation of the constitution and an abuse of power which is antithetical to the ethos of a democratic and multiparty governance system enshrined in the constitution, and erodes the democratic principle that limited term of office. On this basis, we strongly reject the unilateral decision taken by the ruling party to unilaterally and unconstitutionally extend its term. Once again we call on the ruling party to sit down with the opposition parties to thoughtfully discuss the issue in order to find a solution and reach a political settlement.
Oromo Liberation Front [and] Oromo Federalist Congress
ONLF position regarding the postponement of the elections and continuation of the current status quo in Ethiopia
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) expresses its grave concern regarding the process that resulted in the decision of the House of Federation to postpone the 2020 elections and extend the mandate of the government and its institutions beyond what the constitution allows.
Out of our concern for public safety, the ONLF was one of the prominent political parties that saw the necessity of taking into consideration the effects of the COVID19 Pandemic on the planned elections. However, we believe that any extension of the current governments mandate should have been done through an inclusive and consultative process resulting in a political consensus rather than a unilateral decision by the one-party dominated two-tier parliament. A political consensus whereby the views of the opposition political parties were taken into consideration and a climate of trust and fruitful collaboration was promoted would have been more likely to create an environment where the promised peaceful and comprehensive democratic transformation of Ethiopia would have been possible.
Now that the government has taken this unilateral decision despite clear warnings by opposition parties, the ONLF wishes to affirm that Ethiopia is entering a more dangerous political phase which can only be described as a sudden and profound halt in the democratization process. For all regions, there are security issues and transition crisis, therefore, this delay in elections is sure to further endanger peace and stability. Thus, Across Ethiopia, the ONLF is concerned that increased tensions will be catastrophic and benefit no one.
Therefore, the ONLF calls upon the government to enter into immediate and comprehensive dialogue with all opposition groups for the purposes of reaching a settlement that averts a return to habitual conflicts in Ethiopia. The COVID 19 Pandemic need not halt Ethiopia’s democratic transformation and it need not reverse the political gains achieved thus far at a time when unity of purpose in confronting this Pandemic is desperately needed. The unilateral nature of making this decision actually undermines the political and social stability needed to join hands in the face of this Pandemic which is a threat to us all.
Jigjiga, The Somali State.