The 180-membered Council of the ruling party, EPRDF, elected new leaders last Saturday, at the end of its two-days meeting. In the election, held after 4PM, and chaired by former Dep.PM, Addisu Legesse, the Council members voted on three candidates for the posts of the Chairperson and the Deputy, in a secret ballot.
Acting Prime Minister and Dep.Chair of EPRDF, Hailemariam Desalegne, was elected by unanimous vote to take the Chairmanship, which was held by the late PM Meles Zenawi since the party’s founding in 1989.
Education Minister Demeke Mekonen received the majority vote for the Deputy position.
The EPRDF Council has assigned the newly elected Chair and his deputy to serve as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, respectively. They will take place the posts after the approval of the parliament, where EPRDF has an overwhelming majority.
The party elected the Chairpersons with the expectation that they will serve until 2015, even beyond, all other things constant, according to Minister Bereket’s explanation on Saturday evening. However, procedurally, re-elections are mandatory every two years , when the supreme organ of the party, the EPRDF Congress, convenes. The next meeting of the Congress will take place at the end of this year.
Only three Candidates
EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) is made up on four regional parties. That is: SEPDM (Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement), TPLF (Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front); ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement); and OPDO (Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization).
EPRDF’s by-law stipulates that the Chairperson and the deputy to be elected by the 180 members EPRDF Council, though only members of the 36 member Executive Committee could be nominated. Traditionally, the Chairpersons of the four member parties(ANDM, TPLF, OPDO, SPDM) are automatically considered as nominees for the election.
However, in the election last weekend, there were only three candidates. That is: were Hailemariam Desalegne, Chairman of SEPDM/EPRDF, Demeke Mekonen, Chairman of ANDM/EPRDF and Sufian Ahmed, who is executive member of OPDO/EPRDF since 2010 and Minister of Finance and Development since 2002.
Unusually, TPLF/EPRDF didn’t forward a candidate. In a similar digression from tradition, the candidate from OPDO/EPRDF was not its chair nor its deputy.
It is assumed that the absence of a candidate from TPLF is due to the need to give way for the other parties. It should be noted that the late Chairman of EPRDF, Meles Zenawi, was from TPLF.
The rationale behind OPDO’s move is not clear, however. Though its Chair is frequently abroad due to illness, the Dep.Chair of OPDO, Muktar Kedir, head of the office of the Prime Minister since 2010, could have been nominated.
‘Full implementtion’ of the Metekakat plan
No less important than the election is the Council’s decision to ‘fully implement’ the Metekakat (leadership replacement) plan, which was adopted in June 2009 following the request by the late Meles Zenawi to be relieved of duty.
According to the plan, a new generation of leaders would be promoted, while “those who served in senior posts since the party’s foundation” resign in a 5 years period.
Consequently, in Sept. 2010, several senior party leaders, including frm. Dep. PM Addisu Legesse, frm Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin and the current Speaker of the House Abdula Gemeda, resigned to to a relatively less prominent party posts. That was said to be the first phase of the plan, while the second and the third phases were scheduled to take place in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
However, with the sudden departure of Meles Zenawi, there were talks of bringing some of the veteran leaders to the fore, so as to ‘fill the gap’.
Nonetheless, the EPRDF Council decided last week for the "full implementation of the plan" right now.
As a result, the Council made nominations with the understanding that only the new generation of leaders could be considered.
It is not clear whether and to what degree this decision will be reflected in a cabinet reshuffle Hailemariam might conduct in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, its full impact will be observed seen by the end of the year, when the EPRDF Council and Executive Committee will be elected anew.
The June 2010 decision on the Metekakat plan includes a two-term limit and a ceiling of age 65 for future party leaders.
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