News / Africa

Marquee Ethiopia Election Matchup Pits PM vs Former Comrade

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 16 Dec 2009 (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 16 Dec 2009 (file photo)

Ethiopia's May 23 elections for parliament have produced some interesting match-ups, with several prominent government officials facing stiff competition.  One contest pits Prime Minister Meles Zenawi against a former comrade in arms, Aregash Adane.

Aregash Adane seems an unlikely challenger to one of Africa's most respected leaders. Invited for an interview about her bid to unseat the prime minister, she arrives on foot. No aides, no driver, no car.

"I'm only a few kilometers away," she explains, "and I like to walk".

Aregash Adane knows Meles Zenawi well. They are both from Adwa, in the northern Tigray region. The legislative seat they are contesting represents the town. She is three years older than the 54-year-old prime minister, but says they have close family ties.

"Adwa is both his home and my home. His family and my family are very close. They are friends. We are neighbors," she added.

Mr. Meles and Ms. Aregash began their political careers as comrades in a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).  They fought together to overthrow the murderous Dergue regime led by the Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.  When the Dergue collapsed in 1991, the TPLF seized power.

Mr. Meles became leader of both the TPLF and the new ruling coalition called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).  Ms. Aregash was the senior female member of the decision-making central committee.

But in 2001, a power struggle split the TPLF.  Mr. Meles crushed his opponents.  The rival faction, including Aregash Adane, was banished to the political wilderness.

Ms. Aregash says since then, Mr. Meles has followed Leninist principles, establishing himself as the head of a one-party Revolutionary Democratic state.

"It's a dictatorship," she noted.  "Revolutionary Democracy is a philosophy of communism or socialism. It was designed by Lenin to create a certain period where they could develop and transit to socialism, so the ideology itself is very dictatorial."

Ms. Aregash says her challenge to the prime minister is not personal, but policy-driven.  She argues that after 19 years in power, the EPRDF's promise of democratic socialism has failed to materialize.  She calls Revolutionary Democracy an ideology of the past.

"The EPRDF government has failed in the sense that it didn't build or create democratic institutions in the country," she explained.  "There is no era of socialism, at least in the immediate future, so the ideology which Meles is still following is, I believe wrong, so I challenge him."

The former guerrilla fighter says voters in Adwa are responding to her message, but she doubts Mr. Meles and the ruling party will give up power through the ballot box.  She says Ethiopia's elections are stage-managed affairs designed to produce a desired outcome while giving the impression of multi-party democracy.

"If people voted against EPRDF, they are not ready to accept it, so they have to create an environment where the opposition couldn't get a majority," she said.  "The only thing it's trying to do is portray he's creating an environment where the election has been held democratically."
 
The May 23 election will be the first parliamentary poll since the disputed 2005 vote, which gave the ruling party a solid majority. Allegations of fraud led to violent demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors were killed. Scores of opposition leaders were tried and sentenced to life in prison for their part in the protests, but later pardoned.

Ethiopia's most recent elections, the 2008 local council polls, also gave the ruling party an overwhelming victory. After most opposition parties boycotted, the EPRDF and its allies won all but three of 3.6 million seats being contested.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid