Now that the go-ahead has been given to conduct 2020’s delayed general elections all political parties are duty-bound to make the necessary preparations to earn the consent of voters. They must always bear in mind that as the ultimate repository of sovereign power the people get to pick through whose person they exercise this power. Prior to setting out to sell their vision to the electorate, they need to do their homework properly. Parties lacking the requisite discipline to engage in a peaceful political struggle and a clear program should know that there is nothing to be gained by appearing on the ballot, that power cannot be gained by force, deception or making empty promises. As such it’s incumbent on each and every party to put the interest of the country and its people front and center and demonstrate that it is committed to the peaceful and democratic pursuit of its objectives. This said the ruling party owes the obligation to go the extra mile to broaden the democratic space. It’s then that the playing field can become level for all competing parties.
Ethiopia finds itself at a time when the political space has to be more accommodative of diversity of views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right Ethiopians should be able to enjoy. Critical to the enjoyment of this right is respecting differences in opinion. Democracy cannot thrive where freedom of expression is solely used to criticize the views of others without offering a better alternative. Whether in political parties or other organizations no two persons should be expected to agree on everything all the time and they should be able to express themselves freely. Such culture of civilized engagement is vital to generating ideas that can win the public over. Resorting to such undemocratic practice as peddling vitriolic narratives to grab the reins of power is not befitting the times. This backward attitude has for long characterized the leaders of most political parties. These leaders need to understand that if they are to win the hearts and minds of voters it’s of the essence to submit to their will.
Ethiopia’s backward political landscape has to be fundamentally transformed so as to empower parties that truly embrace transparent and people-centered agendas. Needless to say the transformation may succeed insofar as all the players abide by the rules of the game. Chief among these are resolving differences through constructive discussions; eschewing the notion that differences are a bar to working together; engaging in unfettered and yet rational dialogues; and demonstrating unequivocally one’s commitment to respect the will of the people including accepting the results of elections. All Ethiopians want is to live in peace, freedom and equality. A party whose platform enables it to deliver increased income, affordable housing, quality education, justice and stability is apt to gain the electorate’s trust. The very purpose of political rivalry is to convince the public that they are best suited to fulfill these basic needs.
It’s undeniably of crucial importance to forge a shared vision on the unity of Ethiopia and its people. There still abound compatriots who detest the very mention of Ethiopia and want nothing more than its disintegration. No matter what philosophy they spouse all politicians have the duty to put the continued survival of Ethiopia above their personal or organizational interest. Those entirely clueless about the art of politics or are consumed with conniving and hatred better take off time from politics until they develop a mindset that puts the nation and fellow citizens first. They and their ilk are zero-sum politicians who live to bicker over trifle matters and have no place for give-and-take; they wax lyrical about democracy but don’t live it actually. Ethiopians have had enough of pseudo-politicians masquerading as their authentic voices. Given they have no qualms about using the upcoming elections as an excuse to roil the country, it’s sensible to take the necessary precautions aimed at assuring the credibility and integrity of the electoral process from start to finish.
The raft of complex challenges confronting Ethiopia has been accumulating for years, if not decades. The first thing to do in overcoming the challenges should be to seek pragmatic, prudent and knowledge-based solutions. The irrational and sometimes malicious actions frequently taking place across the country are destined to produce ephemeral gains and eventually become irrelevant. As a country undergoing a sea change, Ethiopia faces the real prospect of sliding backwards if it is unable to move beyond wrangling over inconsequential issues and focus instead on institution building and the rule of law. The most important task before the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) in terms of laying the democratization process on a firm foundation is to assure the prevalence of durable peace and stability. This calls for, among others, upholding the rule of law; respecting democratic and human rights fully; guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary; broadening the political space; and undertaking preparations which help ensure that the next elections meet international standards.
The people of Ethiopia have time and again intimated that the single most important thing they want out of their leaders is to understand their needs and govern them accordingly. Aside from figuring out what the people they govern really feel and think, the leaders must promote their active participation in finding solutions to the intractable problems besetting Ethiopia. Indispensable to the search for solutions is the contribution of intellectuals, religious leaders, elders, educational institutions, the media and civil society organizations. It’s criminal to disenfranchise a people possessing wisdom and civility. In particular, politicians and self-proclaimed activists have to desist from any and all acts that disrespect the public. Sooner or later the public will dish out the same treatment to them. In fact they should endeavor to leave behind a legacy that future generations will be proud of. Ethiopia’s thorny problems cannot be resolved without a vision anchored in the aspirations of its people. This is why it’s of the essence that all stakeholders in the electoral process, especially political parties, gear up for the success of the upcoming elections