It is up to the top executive authorities to encourage the legislative assembly stand firm on its two feet and thereby assist it to exercise its constitutional prerogative satisfactorily in the name and on behalf of the electorate than to downplay its pivotal role in the entire political spectrum, writes Merhatsidk Mekonnen Abayneh.
These days, it is not unusual to observe both senior and lower-ranking government officials coming out and openly uttering that this or that wrong has been grossly committed against public interests and expectations at large due to bad governance and maladministration at all levels. To one’s own astonishment, though, none of these repentant-looking public officials appears to be courageous enough to resign from office or quit his or her duty in the wake of such an unprecedented outcry relentlessly echoed throughout the nation.
The most recent revelations of the Ethiopian Policy Studies and Research Center on the deteriorating state of Executive-Legislative relations prevailing in the country are amusing, if not disturbing to watch over the television, from the standpoint of our background rhetoric which otherwise strives to propagate that we are a visible and credible constitutional democracy. According to the outcome of the public opinion survey reportedly conducted by the said center, the present executive branch of the Federal Government is awfully turning into a tyrannical institution with little regard for and accountability to the country’s supreme legislature in many respects. Far from being easily annoyed and frustrated when confronted with some tough questions on the part of the parliamentary deputies while presenting their periodic performance reports, senior executives in charge of our ministries have gradually made themselves detached from normal parliamentary oversight in their regular conduct of public affairs.
Likewise, the House of People’s Representatives has been accused of being too timid to question the executive authorities, leave alone to instruct the Prime Minister so that he would unseat anyone of them from the ministerial post as mandated by the constitution. The grand house was also heavily criticized for hastily approving any draft bills and other policy instruments poorly prepared and submitted to it by the Council of Ministers short of adequate deliberation and debates, purely for lack of capacity and professional support.
In our political arrangement, which virtually adopts the parliamentary form of government, members of the executive branch are also parliamentary deputies at the same time. Interestingly enough, it is the senior political party ideologues, who are in charge of the key ministerial posts having still maintained their parliamentary seats. It is ironic that the executive reports to the house which is already technically and psychologically dominated by its own cabinet members. On top of this, the parliament is already occupied exclusively by elected members of a single political organization leaving no room for options other than its pre-defined policy preferences. Under such a complex arrangement, therefore, who is legitimately qualified to criticize who for an allegedly weak government performance is confusing to comprehend, to say the least? Hence, the executive has no right to vilify the parliament as an institution on that level in as much as it is justified to confess to the public on its own vivid authoritarian behaviors on the rise.
I am not claiming here that our present parliament is rather better organized and equipped than what has been elucidated above in such an undesirable tone. Admittedly, it has yet to gain a measure of strength and credibility in the eyes of their respective constituencies as to their political party which had, in the first place, nominated and fielded them for the national election to the rather comforting parliamentary seat.
Nevertheless, it is the executive itself, which is more affiliated to the party in power, that seems to have unduly influenced and paralyzed the legislature from time to time. In my view, the parliament could have been quite a formidable force had its people’s deputies been allowed to extricate themselves from the bondage of a strong party discipline and felt at liberty to air out their opinions and beliefs in full compliance with the strict constitutional terms and requirements. Art. 54 Sub-Art. (4) of the Federal Constitution is instructive on this regard. Since they are supposed to represent the Ethiopian people as a whole, the overall conduct of members of the country’s supreme legislature must be dictated and “governed by the ideals of the constitution, the will of the people and their own conscience”. Furthermore, it has been emphatically made clear under Sub-Art. (5) of the same Article that neither administrative nor criminal actions may be instituted against them simply by reason of the vote they cast or decisions they render during their parliamentary sessions.
More often than not, these and other constitutional guarantees are overshadowed and, sometimes, superseded by internal party connections and dialogues. On this account, it is quite probable that the executive branch of government will have the upper hand in the imposition of its wishes on the legislature with little or no reaction from the house. Apart from this party-government inter-marriage, In present-day Africa, (of which Ethiopia is not an exception), the mainstream responsibility to institute genuine democracy and promote good governance actually rests with those forefront executive authorities of the day who are in direct command of the national defense, police and security forces, instead of the Honorable People’s Deputies to the contrary, regardless of the usual political rhetoric provided for ordinary citizens to their disbelief.
That is why it sounds pretty far-fetched and rather hypocritical to belittle and discredit the already disempowered parliament with low profile for its widely acknowledged impotence in the face of a ‘rebel child’ apparently misbehaving against its own nourishing parents and disobeying their household instructions to an uncontrollable degree. In my view, it is up to the top executive authorities to encourage the legislative assembly stand firm on its two feet and thereby assist it to exercise its constitutional prerogative satisfactorily in the name and on behalf of the electorate than to downplay its pivotal role in the entire political spectrum.
By way of a final remark, I need to underscore that mere self-generated confessions by public officials, one after another, on previous misdeeds alone do not add much value to our democratic discourse. Only addressing the heart of the problem, (not its isolated peripheries), would help us move forward in the right direction.
Ed.’s Note: Merhatsidk Mekonnen Abayneh is a senior expert in law as well as peace and security studies. He is currently the Chief Legal Advisor to the President of the Amhara Regional State. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].