Towards political rivalry respecting legal bounds
Over fifty million voters are eligible to cast their ballot in the upcoming elections featuring various political parties and coalitions that are expected to be more robust than those which took part in previous editions. Some three hundred thousand electoral officers, accompanied by thousands of local and international election observers, are set to man over fifty thousand polling stations. All contending parties have the obligation to rein themselves in so that the elections exceed preceding rounds in terms of preparation and execution. This requires a strict adherence to a mutually agreed code of conduct governing pre-election, election and post-election activities by each and every participant. Any infraction of this rule, the electoral law and other pertinent laws of the land should entail legal liability for wrongdoers regardless of who they are. The elections can be free, fair and credible as long as the contestants operate within the bounds of the law during all stages of the electoral process. If political parties resort to using force to win the elections as the ruling party tended to do before, lawlessness is bound to ensue.
Free and fair elections are one of the fundamental pillars of the democratization process. Such elections cannot take place in the absence of a consensus among political parties on the ground rules and political stability. All electoral activities must aim at empowering the electorate to exercise their rights responsibly. This calls for, among others, an enabling environment where all contending parties and the voting public can contribute their share to fostering democracy as well as adequate preparations on the part of the security forces, the courts, the media and other stakeholders to protect the integrity of the electoral process in an impartial manner. Any and all display of belligerence to hide one’s weakness and other acts intended to disrupt the elections are unhealthy and flat out unlawful. Democracy cannot thrive if the public is unable to choose its leaders of its own volition.
Though the upcoming elections can play a vital role in ushering a bright future for Ethiopia, there is a real possibility that elements harboring a nefarious agenda can dash this prospect. Given that the political forces active on Ethiopia’s political scene, with the exception of a notable few, are alien to the concept of the rule of law and have a poor track record in practicing democracy, they are unlikely to exercise self-restraint. They are characterized by such deficiencies as the propensity to blindly disparage and vilify rivals as enemies, inciting supporters to violence, and turning one’s back to dialogue and a brand of politics fitting for the 21st century. Incapable of adapting to contemporary political realities they will not stop at anything to accomplish their goals. The moment they join the race for the seat of power without abandoning their old habits it will be extremely difficult to assure that the electoral process is peaceful and democratic let alone avert the havoc they will wreak.
All political actors running for election owe a solemn duty to respect the bounds of the law as they run for elections. In this regard it’s incumbent on them to set an example by respecting all electoral and political parties laws, regulations and directives. They are particularly duty-bound to urge their members and supporters to refrain from inflaming tensions, whether on social media or through other means, by instigating ethnic or religious strife as well as to focus on criticizing the programs and policies of rivals instead of denigrating their personality or social background. If the elections are to herald the dawn of a promising chapter in Ethiopia’s history it’s counterproductive to violate the rule of law under the guise of electioneering. That is why it’s imperative to heed the lessons of past mistakes and set out to write a new history which takes the country to greater heights.
Ethiopians deserve to have a nation in which they lead a life of freedom peace and prosperity. If this lofty aspiration to be realized it’s absolutely essential to hold elections that are acceptable in the eyes of the public. All political parties and electoral actors need to demonstrate by action that they respect the will of the public and that ultimate sovereignty rests with the people. Insofar as political parties can implement their objectives by garnering the electorate’s votes, the means by which they do so ought to be lawful, peaceful and democratic. Trying to bulldoze one’s way to power is an unviable exercise and apt to come back to bite him/her. Anyone engaging in wanton disregard of the rule of law in the pursuit of political goals should know well that such course of action is liable to elicit a forceful response from adversaries. Irrespective of which side of the political divide they are on the leaders of political parties and activists must do everything in their power lest the irregularities and deadly violence that had marred previous elections are repeated. The irregularities have spawned nothing but a brutal dictatorship. Ethiopians have had enough of tyranny. What they yearn for is a democratic rule midwifed through free, fair and credible elections. It’s for this very reason that political actors have to take it up on themselves to engage in a rivalry that is within legal bounds.