The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), established a year ago and presumed to be one of the frontrunners in the next general election, expressed support to the option of constitutional amendment based on the principles enshrined under Articles 104 and 105/2 of the FDRE Constitution following what it said was a critical deliberations over the four alternatives presented by the government to decide on the fate of the upcoming general election and the incumbent administration.
A week ago, the Deputy Attorney General, Gedion Timotiwos (PhD), presented four possible alternatives to the representatives of the opposition parties at a meeting called by the Office of the Prime Minister. The discussion was initiated by the current administration in view of resolving outstanding issues surrounding the postponement of the upcoming general election because of the coronavirus outbreak and the associated constitutional challenges with regard to the outgoing administration.
The options forwarded by the government, as presented by the Deputy Attorney General, were to dissolve the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), declaring a State of Emergency (SoE), a Constitutional amendment, and seeking Constitutional interpretation.
A statement released on Wednesday, May 6 2020, by the party, states that it has been conducting a series of discussions with constitutional lawyers over the past one month in an attempt to find a constitutional solution for the anticipated power vacuum created due to the decisions taken by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to postpone the general elections, initially scheduled for August 29, 2020.
In its seven page statement, the party requested that any attempts to address the current political and constitutional problems should focus on creating opportunities to strengthen institutions and should be conducted swiftly.
The statement went further to point out that, though the party aspires for a full-fledged constitutional amendment, it admits that it might not be the right time to do so since it requires time and discussions with the public. Therefore, the party expressed its support for constitutional amendment as the only way of addressing the existing political and constitutional crisis.
To this effect, the amendment will have the purpose of enabling the Parliament to postpone the election for not more than one year. However, the process should be accompanied by unambiguous and clearly stated roles of limiting the power of the interim government and restraining it from passing “major and consequential decisions,” as a normal government would have until election is duly conducted, the statement reads.
Similarly, the party opposed the decision the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), passed by on May 04, to approve the option of a constitutional interpretation; by saying it is an option of which its effect is unknown especially during this challenging moment in history.
Apart from this, the party expressed its concerns of interference and that the process should be free from it.
Finally, the party advised that any measure and alternative presented, should take into consideration the existing political and constitutional problems, and at the same time focus on ensuring the stability of the nation, continuity of peace, and the process of building a democratic system. Hence, any decisions related to national issues should also incorporate the voices of all political players irrespective of their political stand.
One the other hand, the current constitutional crisis was heightened recently following a media interview featuring Jawar Mohammed, known politicians who returned to Ethiopia following the reform and recently joined Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and Lidetu Ayalew, another towing figure in Ethiopian politics and member of the top leadership of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP). The two appeared on a local television station to discuss the recent conundrum and caught the wreathe of many commentators for suggesting that current administrations legitimacy would elapse once the current parliamentary year is over and hence all security and army structures should refuse to take orders.
The duo advocated what they termed as “a political solution” for the crisis which is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, going as far proposing the dissolution of the current administration and the establishment of a transitional government.