(Getachew Reda, State Minister –
Special aid to the Prime Minister and MP-elect from Alamata electoral district)
Election season in Ethiopia often used to be a record of allegations and counter allegations on a host of topics, not to mention the morbid excitement of the foreign media at any prospect- mostly imagined than real-of life claiming violence. The latest one- the fifth general elections-has decidedly proved boring to far too many in the media and beyond mainly because it went far below the expectations of the pundits who are in the business of gauging the success of elections based on how much noise and blood it draws and, equally important, on the number of opposition seats snatched away from the incumbent if not downright victory to the opposition.
Now that the first two components of noise and blood are all but ruled out entirely, the focus has now shifted to the result. The ruling party is now being blamed for having aggressively campaigned for every seat and for, as a result, having seemingly denied- if results so far are any guide- a single seat for the opposition. A lot can be said about how democracy is more importantly about process than results; about how elections in electoral systems such as ours are won on a first past the post basis with pitched battles for every single vote in every polling station, every district; and about the extent to which the opposition fared or not in advancing a platform that would woo voters away from the incumbent; or equally importantly whether there was an opposition that took it upon itself to do its assignment other than crying foul over every positive development presided over by the governing party.
The opposition’s best performance unfortunately- or maybe fortunately-was to whine about EPRDF’s every success while promising nothing, though in many ways, even praising failed policies of past regimes to the skies. And to cap it all, the opposition parties were falling over each other to make last ditch efforts to field candidates of whom they had little or no knowledge whatsoever except that these ‘candidates’ were ready to throw their lot with the people-strapped opposition for an outcome as a result of which they don’t stand to lose or, better still,even gain some disposable cash. They could easily settle for the ‘sira maskeja’ if, in all likelihood, winning the seat which incidentally depends on the extent to which these accidental candidates command the respect of the voters proves hard to come by as it mostly did. As it turned out, the people, far better placed to understand what is-or is not- in their best interest, had better choices to make. Why would people in their right mind be persuaded to vote for a guy whom they know was an accomplished loser all his life simply because some party among the alphabet soup of Ethiopian opposition groups plucked him out of self imposed oblivion to be a candidate?!
The opposition quite simply didn’t run to win votes or seats, much less to govern, as naive or misguided or misleading commentators seem to believe was the case. They were there for the noise and blood of it. To the extent that the opposition managed to garner unbelievably significant vote, or a few seats who knows, it would have nothing to do with their performance so much as with voters’ dissatisfaction with the incumbent. That is called protest vote; far from vote for the opposition. Interestingly in this election, unlike in 2005 many who would have supported the opposition if it had gotten its ass in gear, pardon my French, casted their protest vote against the rejectionist opposition and instead for EPRDF. Some of This was a vote for peace, stability, as against unbridled hate and bigotry. While most voted for EPRDF on the basis of its track record in growth and development, it understands very well that a significant number of it was not necessarily about its performance.
All said and done, some in the western media, the forces of rejection in diaspora and their adopted kids in the Ethiopian opposition are stuck in a groove: the results show that the election was a sham. Stripped off of its semantic garnishes, what this means is just one thing: the incumbent, we are being told, should have undertaken an elaborate election rigging scheme on behalf of the opposition for the latter to ever have a chance of remaining relevant. That of course is the text book example of anti-democracy despite the best of efforts otherwise by HRW, NED or some such. As they say the other side of the Atlantic, a pig with a lipstick is still a pig, or something like that!