Political Parties and Democracy in Ethiopia.

In line with the current reforms and opening-up of the political party system in Ethiopia, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung brought together around 100 distinguished opinion makers, politicians, researchers and members of civil society on December 4th 2018 (GC) to discuss these new developments and their implications for the future. More concretely, the policy dialogue aimed to shed light on present and future challenges for political parties, as well as to determine opportunities to be grasped and roles to be played.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Constantin Grund, Resident Representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, stated: “I am deeply convinced that the current reform agenda cannot or should not focus on the elections in 2020 alone. There are rare moments in life where timing, aspirations, intentions and conditions fit into the same window of opportunity that allow the achievement of historic changes. These moments are few, and I might say, but this moment for Ethiopia is now.”

The keynote speech was held by Mr. Lencho Leta (Founder and member of the Oromo Democratic Front, ODF). His contribution focused on the key questions of the current reform agenda: What are the challenges for Ethiopia in developing a sustainable multi-party democracy? What are the most urgent actions needed for political parties and public institutions to allow a successful transition into a multi-party system? What could we expect from ruling or opposition parties as responsable contribution? He also reflected on Ethiopian political history and stressing the importance of avoiding errors from the past.

In the following discussion, Mr. Mushe Semu (former President of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, EDP), Dr. Getachew Assefa (Coordinator of the Working Group for the Legal Reform in Democratic Institutions), Ms. Soleyana Shimeles (Founder of Zone 9 Bloggers Group) and Ms. Woinshet Molla (Politician and member of the All Ethiopian National Movement), elaborated on many aspects related to the matter.

Although consensus seemed to be that constitutional weaknesses and the lack of internal democracy in political parties are ongoing challenges that need to be addressed urgently, arising opportunities were also highlighted in the dialogue between the panelists and the audience. It was agreed upon that the opening spaces should be used to encourage and activate citizens and to build up strong, democratic institutions. It was concluded that the new deal between the ruling parties and opposition forces will need vision, courage and stamina in order to ensure a sustainable democratic development in Ethiopia.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is grateful to all participants and the vivid discussion.