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Political parties haggle over agenda

Political parties haggle over agenda

A total of 13 topics, drafted for the upcoming political negotiation between the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and 16 opposition parties, were tabled for approval.

The agenda tabled for discussion on Wednesday incorporated controversial topics ranging from constitutional amendment to revise such stringent proclamations as the anti-terrorism law, freedom of the mass media and access to information proclamation, the Charities and Societies (CSO) proclamation, the state of emergency proclamation and more others.

Amending the electoral and tax proclamations are also part of the agenda tabled for negotiation.

Apart from amending the proclamations deemed to have negatively impacted the political landscape of the country, the opposition groups have filed other topics to deal with the existing federal system, to restructure law enforcement institutions and reform the justice sector and to negotiate over the country’s current working language, Amharic.

Creating national consensus, freeing political detainees and prisoners of conscience, building vibrant democratic institutions and delimiting Ethiopia’s international border are other topics drafted for negotiation.

 After the drafted topics were revealed to the meeting, parties sought explanation as to why some of their proposals were rejected. For instance, a representative of the Ethiopia Raey Party, Teshale Sebro, blamed the agenda-drafting committee for rejecting his party’s agenda about businesses owned by political parties. Asmelash Woldeselassie, a member of the committee representing EPRDF, however, denounced Teshale’s claim. According to Asmelash, the topic is already included in the electoral reform agenda.

 Shiferaw Shigute, another EPRDF representative, made clear that the ruling party is not willing to negotiate on the State of Emergency proclamation. It is not right to negotiate on the state of emergency while the proclamation is still in effect, he argued.

He also announced EPRDF’s willingness to discuss electoral reform without setting preconditions.

Regarding such stringent proclamations as the anti terrorism, CSO and the mass media and access to information proclamations, EPRDF has requested an explanation as a precondition. Accepting the agenda of amending the proclamations will depend on the explanations given by the parties submitting the agenda for negotiation, Shiferaw said.

Based on this, the parties tried to explain their positions on the need to amend the proclamations they deemed repressive.

The meeting was attended by local and foreign observers. Among them were World Bank country representative and chairperson of Development Assistance Group Ethiopia (DAG) as well as representatives from the German, Canadian and British embassies.

So far the electoral reform agenda was approved as a topic of discussion while the parties have agreed to continue discussing on the remaining agenda on Monday.