News / Africa

New Ethiopian PM Backer of Dominant Party Rule

Peter Heinlein
Hailemariam Desalegn is Ethiopia's second leader since the EPRDF came to power in 1991.  At 47, he is considered part of a new breed not associated with the guerrilla war that ousted the pro-Soviet military dictatorship led by Mengistu Hailemariam.

In early 2010, there was no hint that he might soon be named foreign minister and deputy prime minister, nor that the untimely death of longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi would thrust him to the pinnacle of power.

Sitting in his spacious office at EPRDF headquarters next door to parliament,  Hailemariam expressed annoyance at western portrayals of Ethiopia as a one-party state.  He noted that in a diverse nation made up of many ethnic and language groups, even the ruling front is made up of several parties.

"Our system is a multi-party system," he said.  "Clearly a multi-party system, because we believe Ethiopia is multinational, multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious, so one party cannot represent all these differences.  So multi-party system is mandatory in Ethiopia, and it's clear one party cannot represent all these issues," Hailemariam said.

He rejected opposition complaints about being shut out of the political process and defended the EPRDF's long tenure, calling it the will of the Ethiopian people.

"I think we shouldn't say it's not a multi-party system, it's a multi-party but of course it's a dominant party system, because the people have chosen the ruling party as its ruler, or leader," Hailemariam said.

Since the interview, the EPRDF has won nearly complete control of parliament, taking all but one seat in the 2010 election.  

European observers determined that election did not meet international standards, and groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have sharply criticized the country's human rights record.

Hailemariam said those criticisms often come because the EPRDF has chosen to follow a different path than that of Western democracies.

"This is all because we don't follow the liberal democratic principles which the Western countries are pushing (us) to follow.  That's why everyone is fighting us, and try to somehow criticize and devalue whatever Ethiopia is doing," Hailemariam said.

He says the often-criticized policies of economic planning and party dominance are needed to energize a country that has suffered generations of misrule.

"Our strategy is totally different from the western way of approach, because we have to get out of this rampant poverty as soon as possible, so if that is the case, gradual movement doesn't work, so we have to revolutionize," Hailemariam said.

The remarks, recorded in interviews two-and-a-half to three years ago, give insight into how Mr. Hailemariam is likely to approach Ethiopia's challenges.  He suggested that his government would follow the Meles Zenawi approach of using the country's five-and-a-half million party members as what he called a "vanguard" to drive social mobilization.

"We know the country is moving in the right direction.  And development is occurring in huge amounts, so we 'll continue doing this.  Most important is we are doing this in a mass movement process, because we see the mass is important in democratization and development works, and we are doing it in movement fashion," Hailemariam said.

Hailemariam is expected to remain in office at least until 2015, when Ethiopia's next national election is scheduled.  He will make his first trip as prime minister next week to New York to address the annual United Nations General Assembly debate.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Behailu Aga from: Norway
September 24, 2012 4:41 AM
The pseudo multiparty system is the order of the day. Voiceless opposion parties are available in Uganda, Iran, Sudan and other countries with evolved dictators. They all claim to have multiparty system.


by: tekle Haileselassie
September 22, 2012 6:56 PM
What choice does any prime minister have but to "back dominant party rule"?As long as "dominant party" means a party that is democratically elected by the majority of the electorate, the people will ,rightly,demand that this party run the country. By extension,therefore,the prime minister must follow party rule.

In Response

by: AG from: US
September 26, 2012 4:12 PM
What does it mean to be democratically elected mean in Ethiopian context? I believe the elections are fraudulent. The dominant party lacks legitimacy due to the continued oppression. Let all with a stake in the future of Ethiopia freely campaign and compete in a fair way and then we can claim that the leadership has legitimacy derived from the consent of the governed. Until then, we will change leadership without much progress in the political space available to others who do not belong to the dominant party.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid