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Call for Ethiopian Parties to Pursue Dialogue

In Ethiopia, the ruling party and the opposition both continue to claim the lead in last Sunday’s elections for the 547-seat parliament. Contesting for power are the ruling party, the EPRDF, and an opposition alliance includes the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Front.

An Ethiopian political scientist, Kinfe Abraham, says dialogue and cooperation will likely be needed no matter who wins. Preliminary results from the polls are expected on Saturday, with final results on June 8th.

Professor Kinfe is the president of two think tanks based in Addis Ababa -- the Ethiopian Institute for Peace and Development and the Horn of Africa Institute for Peace and Democracy. He says 275 seats are needed in parliament to form a government. The opposition would need a two-third majority to introduce legislation. So in order to influence policy, any minority parties in parliament would need to attract support from elements of the winning party

The political scientist says if the ruling EPRDF wins control of the federal government, the CUD and the UEDF, which have won in the capital and other urban areas, would still need to seek dialogue with the ruling party. He says that’s because under the constitution, the mayor is accountable to the prime minister. He says both the government and the opposition have to cooperate to deliver on promises of reducing unemployment and increasing foreign investment.

On the other hand, they’re likely to remain divided over Article 39 of the constitution, which allows regions to separate from the federation, and on land reform. The opposition favors privatization of land as a way of increasing investment and efficiency in the rural areas, whereas the government favors state control over property. It believes privatization could not only increase unemployment in rural areas, but also the drive of rural youth to cities, thus worsening unemployment in urban areas.

Professor Kinfe Abraham says all parties need to accept the results of the elections. Not to do so, he says, would end Ethiopia’s respite from civil conflict – and return the country to chaos.