20 January 2013

Ethiopia: Two Deadlines Gone, Only Five Collect Election Symbols

On the press conference held at the head office of the Blue party on Tuesday, Asrat Tase, the chairperson of the 33 parties and Gebru Gebremariam, executive member of Medrek, declared that they will be taking their case to the court if the election board does not accept their claim.

Only five of the 33 parties that are in dispute with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, have collected their candidature symbols for the local election, which may not see the participation of the remaining 28 parties.

The five that have joined the list are; the Ethiopian Justice & Democratic Front, Sidama Liberation Movement, Dube & Degeni Nations Democratic Party, Ethiopian Democratic Unity and Yebaher Work Mesmes People Democratic Organisation, according to Yesmah Jiru, vice public relations officer of the National Election Board.

The timeline for collecting symbols was set to take place between November 23 and December 27, 2012. The deadline was then extended to December 29, in order to accommodate parties that had not taken symbols, whilst awaiting clarification from the election board. Of the 75 parties inEthiopia, only 29 parties have so far selected symbols from the list provided by the Board.

On October 26, 2012 the election board called a meeting with all the parties in Adama, Oromia, to announce the election schedule. Some opposition parties wanted to discuss the election process and the schedule before agreeing with the Board's outlines. At the end of that meeting, 33 parties signed a petition to the Board in which they described the subjects, which they wanted discussed. The parties listed 18 questions, all of which were rejected by the Board, as either outdated, or as having already been addressed during the 2010 election.

The problems mentioned by the 33 parties, include the perceived affiliation of the EPRDF with the electoral board, the judiciary, police and media outlets. Another concern was the inability of observers from opposition parties, the public and international organisations to observe the elections. This was raised in addition to comments about the improper use of funds allocated to the parties by the electoral board, or obtained from international sources.

Asrat Tassie, chairperson of the committee of the parties, expressed certainty that whatever the parties decided to do, they all still agreed with the list of complaints submitted to the Board. He says that he has not heard from any of the 33 parties whether they have taken symbols or not, adding that each party could do whatever it wanted.

But not all parties may agree on the committee's list of worries. The Ethiopian Justice & Democratic Forces Front is one of the 33 signatories, but only because it wants further discussions on the Board's election schedule, according to Girmay Adera, chair person of the party.

Legesse Lanikamo, secretary of the Sidama Liberation Movement, says his party decided to participate in the election "after a long discussion with the Sidama people," although he still vows allegiance to the cause of the 33 parties.

"All the questions they raised are our questions, too," he told Fortune.

A second deadline has passed, without 28 of the 33 parties collecting their symbols. These parties said, at a press conference held on Tuesday January 15, 2013, at the head office of the Blue Party, located nearSandfordInternationalSchool, that the Board should not have rejected their complaints without first asking for evidence of their claims.

"We have sufficient evidence for each and every claim," Gebru Gebremariam, executive member of the Forum for Democratic Dialogue inEthiopia(Medrek) and member of the committee said, during the conference.

With the passing of the second deadline, none of those that have not yet taken their symbols have asked for further extensions. They declared, at the press conference, that under the current circumstances, talking about elections and voting was like helping the ruling party in its election conspiracy and assisting in the violation of election principles.

"No party has asked us to extend the deadline and we are about to finalise the process," said Yesmah on Wednesday January 16, in an interview with Fortune. "If they really want to run in the election, the Board might discuss and adjust the timetable."

The parties, on the other hand, say they could go to court, in order to get their list of 18 questions addressed.

Copyright © 2013 Addis Fortune. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.