Following a lengthy and tiresome discussion to set the agenda, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and some 16 opposition parties started formal negotiations two weeks ago on the Revised Political Parties’ Registration Proclamation No. 573/2008. So far, the parties have covered about two-thirds of the 63 articles of the existing proclamation, and agreed to incorporate new articles and sub-articles and to amend some.
Among the new articles to be incorporated is one that raised to 3,000 (from the current 1,500) the minimum number of founding members of a country-wide party, according to Washiun Tesfaye, one of the negotiators.
Apart from that, the parties have agreed that for a party to be considered a country-wide political party, it should maintain offices in at least four regional states and two city administrations.
Similarly, the parties also agreed on requirements that a regional party needs to meet. In this regard, a regional party should have regional programs, offices in at least 25 percent of the zones, woredas and cities where it was established.
Another issue the parties agreed to incorporate to the existing proclamation is that of office rental, about which opposition parties have been complaining for long. In this regard, the parties agreed that opposition parties would be entitled to rent out an office space as per a contractual agreement between lessor and lessee, and any provision to the contrary would henceforth be repealed.
Though it is vague and open to any kind of interpretation, a new article was incorporated that would force the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) “to carry out all the necessary work to build the capacity of political parties.”
They also agreed that a political party would need to clearly state the timetable for a general assembly, number of members, decisions, and schedule for regular conferences, including the preparations made for it.
The parties also agreed to include a new article that would obligate political parties to notify the electoral board 30 days before the commencement of a general assembly of the parties.
Regarding notification to the board, when a party elects new leadership, the parties agreed to notify that to the NEBE within 30 days. Previously, the parties were required to notify the board immediately.
The parties also agreed to amend articles associated with coalition, front and alliance. Accordingly, in cases when parties want to form a coalition, the parties agreed to include an article which obliges them to submit a document to NEBE that consisted of a temporary founding report, objectives and leaders of the alliance.
Moreover, an article that would force political parties to notify NEBE the duration of the coalition and authorizes NEBE to give decisions on the establishment was also added to the proclamation.
An article that would prohibit a party from joining a new alliance with other parties before leaving from its previous coalition was also included.
The negotiation of the parties is expected to continue for the coming three months, during which more controversial issues would be thrashed out. Representatives of religious organizations, the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) are attending the negotiations. Also in attendance are personnel from the American, British, German, Canadian and Dutch embassies.