Following the Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) announcement earlier in September that preparations have been finalized to form a new administration and will take Office as of October 4, 2021; the issue has become a talking point by political commentators and fellow Ethiopians from different walks of life.
The formation of a new government following the June 21 election, is set be conducted the coming Monday, October 4, 2021. The formation of the new government comes after eleven months since the start of the war in Tigray. Exactly eleven months ago, the feud between the federal government and the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which initially was characterized by exchange of inflammatory words, turned into a full-fledged war.
According to partial election results, the incumbent, Prosperity Party (PP), won an overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament, assuring Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) a new five-year term in Office. While a small number of opposition figures also secured seats in the June’s election, PP’s landslide victory gave PM Abiy the mandate to lead the country, an opposed, during these stormy times.
Despite the fact that the new administration faces what is seemingly an insurmountable task in alleviating the political, economic and social upheavals, its formation will give the PP unencumbered power, bringing an end to the transitional period of PM Abiy, which he assumed since April 2018, as the chairman of the then EPRDF, now PP. This brings to an end the uncertainty surrounding the government as a “caretaker government” rather than duly elected representatives.
The Houses announcement also comes even as some constituencies that failed to vote in June, mainly due to security threats, cast their ballots. Abiy’s administration is battling multiple security crisis’s, including a war in the Tigray region, which has forced millions to flee their homes and according to the United Nations it left more than five million in need of food assistance.
One of the major issues of concern throughout the process of the June elections was the issue of national dialogue and consensus, where majority of competing parties discussed their respective election manifestos and vowed to embark on if they get elected and form a government.
In what seemed to be a trend to make vows, the incumbent also indicated that it will organize a platform for a national dialogue and consensus and promised it will invite political actors to take part in the process and build a democratic and inclusive political system, prior to the announcement of the formation of the new administration
However, despite the repetitive calls from the international community for a dialogue, the composition of participants is not yet clear if it contains the TPLF and OLA-Shene. Even though calls to negotiate with the TPLF to end the ongoing war in Tigray have been made, it seems impossible mainly because of the position taken by the Ethiopian government to label them as terrorists and not negotiate with terrorists either.
Such a firm stand by the government, is shared by Getaneh Balcha Head of the Political Affairs of Balderas for Genuine Democracy (Balderas). Getaneh pointed out that his party firmly believes in negotiations and addressing any sort of differences via dialogue, however, such motives should be respected by all stakeholders.
“There are no problems that would be solved by the use of force or weapons; however, we also believe that the TPLF and OLA-Shene are terrorist organizations that attempt to realize their respective objectives by the use of force. Therefore, any negotiation with a group that takes hostage the public is inappropriate,” Getaneh said.
Furthermore, he said that “if there has to be a negotiation, the issue of use of force must be off the table, the two cannot go hand-in-hand, but TPLF and OLA-Shene are trying to use both techniques simultaneously. Therefore, the decision by the government to exclude the two from the table is reasonable.”
As the formation of the new administration approaches, peace and security are bound to be one of the challenges for the new government. The war that has ravaged the northern part of Ethiopia, which has expanded into neighboring regions of Amhra and Afar and the atrocities accompanying it, will be a task for decades to come.
As the past year bore witness to an increase in local conflicts across the country, including sporadic attacks in the Oromia region, which the government has blamed on TPLF allies, the OLA-Shene, making predictions of tough times to come, is sensible.
Hence, what will be the priorities of the government in the next five years remains to be a critical question, while fellow citizens throughout the country demand swift solutions to pressing social, economic, security and political challenges facing the country. Maintaining stability, peace and security will have to be at the core of the upcoming government.
Getaneh emphasized on the need to ensure peace and security of the country and expounded on the priority agendas of the new administration that should revolve around two major areas to pave the way for the continuity of the Ethiopian state.
According to him, the new government should focus on restoring law and order and work hard on the continuity of the country. “During the course of the war that broke out eleven months ago in Tigray, we have witnessed the loss of life, and destruction of public and private properties. Therefore, mending the trauma and the psychology of the public and rebuilding the destructed infrastructures should be the first one,” Getaneh said.
Furthermore, irrespective of existing economic, social, security and displacement problems witnessed in different parts of the country, the new administration should also “give due emphasis in emancipating the country from the threats posed to its very survival,” Getaneh added.
In any case, the Ethiopian population is growing increasingly irritated for the lack of solutions to the country’s problems related to the inflation rate soars above 30 percent. Even those who do not live in conflict areas are struggling to make ends meet. Staples like onions, teff and oil have become significantly more expensive.
In addition, many expect that overcoming the challenges surrounding the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and realigning the distorted diplomatic relations of the country will also be a priority for the new administration.
Hence, resolving the raging conflict in Tigray and helping suffering civilians on the war front in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, ending the unrest in Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regions, resettling displaced citizens and addressing their mounting grievances, as well as strengthening the federal system to avoid future conflict, will undoubtedly be at the top of PM Abiy’s agenda.
Yohannes Gedamu, a political science lecturer at Georgia Gwinnett College, in his opinion piece on Aljazeera said “If Abiy does not take swift actions; the situation in Tigray will continue to be the Achilles heel of the Ethiopian state and hinder his administration’s ability to realize its plans for the country’s future.”
Similarly, Getaneh said that even though his party had previously rejected the outcome of the June elections, the current issue is not about the legality of the election and the like, but rather is about “the very existence of the country.” In this regard, irrespective of our difference on the outcome of the elections we believe that the new administration has the ability to work on ensuring the very existence of the country.
“Even if the political system is dictatorial or authoritarian, at this stage priority should be given on the continuity of the country and we believe that the new administration has the ability to work on the country’s continuity,” Getaneh highlighted.
In sum, the new administration is expected to tackle numerous political, social and economic challenges in the coming months and years. However, while some are hopeful that the new administration will address these challenges, some are skeptical, which is something left for the time to judge.