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Ethiopians Will Soon Learn New PM's Identity

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn attends a meeting for the Joint Political Committee between Sudan and Ethiopia in Khartoum December 24, 2011.
Ethiopians will soon learn the identity of their new prime minister. The ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), is having a council meeting on Friday and Saturday in Addis Ababa.

The council, the highest organ of the EPRDF after the general assembly, will decide who the new chairperson of the party will be. The chairperson will most likely become the new leader of the East African country.

Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was supposed to be sworn in right after the death of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last month. It is still believed that the council will choose Hailemariam as the chairperson, but local newspapers report that that the EPRDF will appoint three deputy prime ministers.

Dr. Negaso Gidada, the former Ethiopian president who was part of drafting the Ethiopian constitution, is currently an opposition leader and says that having three deputies would be unconstitutional.

“You can refer to article 75 of the constitution which speaks about DPM. Whatever the case, the constitution speaks of only one DPM, not two or three more. If it is true, it means the EPRDF is continuing its violation of the constitution and that it's not leading the country according to the constitution," he said.

Negaso feels the EPRDF was already in violation of the constitution by delaying the appointment of the deputy prime minister.

But the delay might also explain Ethiopia’s changing power politics says veteran political scientist Medhane Tadesse.

"There will be a return to a collective kind of leadership. Which means that decision making in Ethiopia is probably now back to the collective mode," said Medhane. "Another major change in Ethiopia after Meles will be the distribution of power so probably also to compensate for the lost of Meles. I think its imperative that they distribute power and delegate it to as many people as possible. In a way this is more useful and visible in the Ethiopian context and probably also the right thing to do."

EPRDF council members chose not to comment before the meeting was over. A statement on the newly elected chairman is expected to be released this weekend.