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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora