The 6th National Election as a Tool for Promoting Democracy, Nation Building in Ethiopia

98

Nation-building is popularly understood as the process whereby a society of people with diverse origins, histories, languages, cultures and religions come together within the boundaries of a sovereign state with a unified constitutional and legal dispensation, a national public education system, an integrated national economy, shared symbols and values, as equals, to work towards eradicating the divisions and injustices of the past; to foster unity; and promote a countrywide conscious sense of being proudly committed to the country and open up to the rest of the world.

In the modern sense a nation is built on the process of establishing a government that could take various forms including republican, presidential, constitutional monarchy or any form of building a national government. Building a nation is indeed a continuous process that unfolds through time.

A nation is built as a process that is conducted overtime not in a static and permanent manner but in the dynamics of change and continuity. In modern democracies, establishing a government in any country takes place through constitutionally established legal technical process through universal suffrage through elections.

Over the last several decades, although Ethiopia was meant to be a multi-ethnic and multi-party country, elections were conducted only as a process of confirmation of the status quo and were never transparent nor democratic in the strict sense of the word. These elections were in most cases compounded by political turmoil and frustrations which were never addressed.

During the imperial regime, elections were used as a window dressing for the confirmation of the imperial power of the emperor. In the Derg’s unitary party system election was conducted as a nominal ceremony to legitimize the political power of civil turned military officials already elected through what they called organizational duties as a tool for usurping the decisive power of the electorate.

As a federal country, in Ethiopia continuous nation building process takes place through elections as provided in Article 54 of the federal constitution through the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Since the establishment of the federal government, the country has conducted five rounds of national elections and the 6th National Election is to be conducted very soon.

Why are elections so important for Ethiopia? The first issue that strikes the mind is the question of legitimacy and continuity of the democratic process of formation of governments every five years as the constitution demands.

Elections conducted in Ethiopia legally set the principle of accountability on governments to function only in the framework of the constitution as the fundamental law of the country. The upcoming election is important because it establishes the constitutional basis for the acceleration of the multi-faceted reform programs that are getting momentum in the country.

Election in Ethiopia gives the power of revocability to the electorate to call back the representatives that are not accomplishing their legislative functions for which they are elected. On the other hand, election at the national and regional level indicates the supremacy of the constitution as the leading law of the country.

As stated, above nation building in Ethiopia implies, constitutionalism, the rule of law and good governance in all aspects of public life.

Election is therefore an important component and a super structural prerequisite for promoting the necessary economic basis for the comprehensive socio-economic development in Ethiopia.

This means that elections in this country do not end only at the polling stations in which ballots are casted by citizens to express their choice of a political party they think would serve them the best.

In the recent past, TPLF conducted its own regional election which was not only unconstitutional but also defied the federal standard role of the NEBE in conducting elections. This was followed by TPLF’s desire to assume federal political power through targeting attack on the Northern Command and a putsch against the federal government.

In the process of nation building in Ethiopia, the upcoming election has more positive regional implications for ascertaining peace and mutual cooperation on regional development programs. This being the case, western powers and their regional and local protagonists are conspiring in open and clandestine manner not only to discredit the current Government of Ethiopia but also to sabotage the entire election preparedness in the country by creating insecurity and political turmoil across the country.

Those who were bitterly complaining about the postponement of the election are now tried to conduct visible and clandestine conspiracies to stop the election from taking place.

The western powers have little interest in seeing the formation of a strong and self-determinant government in Ethiopia and they will upturn every rock at their disposal to establish a puppet regime that would remain subservient to their selfish transnational continental interests. That is why they are working on discrediting the upcoming national election in this country.

In the process of formation of the federal legislative body in Ethiopia, election plays an important role in commissioning the establishment of a bi-cameral parliament, notably the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) and the House of Federation (HoF). This process will then be a major component of a new democratic political system in the country which based on the desires and interests of the peoples of Ethiopia.

As stated on a number of occasions, promoting a democratic political system in Ethiopia is possible only through elections that serve as a rubber stamp for a full-fledged representative democracy in the country.

Ethiopia is still developing a nascent democratic political system that is developing through leaps and bounds. It therefore stands to reason that a democratic election in this country is not expected to be conducted on a red carpet but has to cruise through challenges that are to be addressed through time.

Among other things, the 6th National Election in Ethiopia paves the way for meeting a number of public expectations and demands that remained unanswered but still lingering in the minds of the public.

The issues of domestic boundaries between the regional states, unmet development needs, ethnic based conflicts, and economic disparities unbalance wealth distribution, issues related to ethic identities, infrastructural needs are only few of the challenges that await the upcoming elected government that would assume political power.

 A democratic election increases Ethiopia’s credibility among the global community of nations and would help to skillfully handle national priorities in the realms of diplomacy and foreign relations. Nonetheless, changes and continuity in foreign policy objectives can be implemented only through a responsible government whose power emanates from the ballot boxes.

The country has already issued a homegrown Ten-Years Plan to accelerate wide ranging reforms in Ethiopia and it is no doubt that democratic and credible election is a conveyor belt towards the lofty goals the coming government is expected to carry through.

That is why is important to ensure more sound and closer cooperation between competing parties and all above mentioned stakeholders to act in unison to protect the election at all levels of activities. Moreover, the parties need to also work in close collaboration with NEBE to ensure that the next election will be a landmark in the political history of Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia elections are the cornerstones for building a democratic and multi-ethic Ethiopia. There is no other way. With the growing conspiracy against the country, the next two months are critically decisive and the peoples of Ethiopia should get ready to elect their leaders.