By Semahagn Gashu Abebe
The decision of the Ethiopian Election Board that bans the two major Ethiopian opposition political parties on Thursday 29 January 2015 is a shocking news though it was not entirely unexpected. The legal ownership of the two parties is now transferred to factional groups splitted from the two popular parties. The banned Andinet and the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) are dominant political groups expected to perform well in challenging the ruling TPLF/EPRDF regime during the upcoming general election in May 2015. When asked by media outlets about the decision of the Election Board that banned his party, Ato Asrat Tasse, a leading figure in Andinet party, said “ Today is the end of multi-party democracy in Ethiopia.” Hearing such a statement from a prominent personality who has been active in the political struggle is astonishing. His statement gives the impression that there was a political space that accommodates multi-party democracy in the country until the regime outlawed Andinet yesterday. Such an assumption is utterly wrong. The political reality of the country in the last two decades has been diametrically opposite to the statement made by Ato Asrat Tasse. There has never been any meaningful political commitment on part of the regime for upholding the merits of multi-party democracy in the country.
This is closely related to the ideology of TPLF/EPRDF which is instrumental in maintaining the party’s grip on power. Though TPLF/EPRDF is formally committed to a ‘stable multi-party democratic system’, its decision-making, organisational principles and discourse reflect the Marxist-Leninist philosophy that has guided the TPLF since its foundation in 1975. Particularly, the revolutionary democracy ideology pursued by TPLF/EPRDF does not in principle permit competitive elections. The major consideration of revolutionary democracy is that liberal democracy is not relevant under the social, economic and political conditions prevailing in Ethiopia. TPLF/EPRDF claims that Ethiopia needs a ‘popular’ democracy that continually engage the public in development. This ‘popular’ ideology is branded as revolutionary democracy. According to this ideology, the participation of the public in the decision-making process takes the form of informing the public about the decision of the elite party leaders instead of the people having the sovereign decision-making power. The other characteristic of revolutionary democracy is that it does not permit the existence of independent institutions. In accordance with the merits of revolutionary democracy, political power needs to be centralised within one centralised administrative organ. This implies that the opposition parties can compete in elections but they are not allowed to assume political power. Rather they are always presented as anti-people and enemies of the country. Revolutionary democracy has been extensively used to inflict various repressive measures against opposition party members that include extra-judicial killings, imprisonment and intimidation. Under such political context, the rhetoric about multi-party democracy and free and fair elections in Ethiopia is simply a myth. Rather, democratic Ethiopia will only be established on the grave of revolutionary democracy. UNTIL THEN KEEP CALM SINCE THERE WILL NEVER BE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS UNDER REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY!!