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Are there lessons to be learned from Germany?

Following the statement of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn in October 2016, the Ethiopian government is currently exploring feasible options to modify the electoral laws. This is due to the fact that the laws that are in place exclude approximately 45% of the political opinion spectrum and have led to the 100% majority of the EPRDF in the House of Peoples’ Representatives. Since the last elections, the First-Past-The-Post principle has been identified as the crux of the problem.

Therefore, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Policy Studies Research Center (PSRC) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) organized an experience sharing event, which took place on May 10th, 2017. The objective of this event was to shed some light on the German mixed proportional electoral system. The main guest speaker was the former German federal Minister of Justice, Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin, an experienced jurist and politician, who is currently acting as professor for international relations at the Free University of Berlin.

After recapping on the historical context of how the current German electoral law came to be, Dr. Däubler-Gmelin emphasized Germany’s bottom-up approach that places a high value on the direct link between the electorate and the governing bodies on the municipal level. She went on to emphasize how the city mayors are mostly elected by popular vote (and not by party lists). At federal level, it is widely known that Germany is following a combined proportional and majority rule, allowing the determination of which actual MEP represents the constituency as well as defining the proportion his/her respective party gains within the German Bundestag.

The session was marked by extensive and clarifying questions and answers that enriched the background knowledge of all of the participants present. Dr. Sekuture Getachew (PSRC) and Constantin Grund (FES) took the occasion to underline their willingness to help facilitate further cooperation in the future.