November 23, 2018 - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is expected to hold discussions with leaders of opposition parties on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, according to ENA news.
According to the statement, the Ethiopian Prime Minister will discuss Ethiopia’s ongoing democratization process as well as electoral reforms required to ensure that the next elections are free and fair.
Leaders of all opposition parties have been invited to the meeting, incluidng those that have returned back to the country at the invitation the Prime Minister, according to Office of the Prime Minister.
The meeting will be held at the office of the Prime Minister’s conference hall.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed has initiated a lot of reforms since he was elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia more than seven months ago, on April 2, 2018.
Immediately upon taking office, he released all political prisoners jailed for various reasons. He also welcomed all opposition party leaders residing abroad to come home and be part of peaceful national dialogue.
He spearheaded major drive towards normalization of relations with neighboring countries, starting with the peace agreement with Eritrea.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also took initial steps to liberalize the Ethiopian economy long dominated by state enterprises. Although not substantive measures or steps have been taken so far.
However, the state is still controlled by one party, the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front), as are the security apparatus and the state-owned media.
Despite the apparent liberalization of freedom of speech and political association, the cult of personality around the prime minister grows by the day. The end result of this is yet to be determined.
All former regional and EPRDF leaders not strongly aligned with the Prime Minister appear to have been sidelined. All of the EPRDF component parties, as well as regional state leaders, seem to be strongly behind the Prime Minister. An exception to this is perhaps the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a party that saw the lion's share of its members being arrested for corruption and abuse of power. That party too apprears to be increasingly falling in line.
While previous prisoners have been released, others are being jailed based on what appears to be legitimate but selective in nature, and not broad in scope to cover all regions and political parties.
Unlike opposition parties in other countries, Ethiopian opposition parties are largely underdeveloped and lack basic structure and financial means. Many are small in numbers, composed of no more than a few hundreds. Conditioned by years of repression, and contrary to the firebrand opposition parties you see elsewhere in other countries, Ethiopian opposition parties are largely self-censuring, mute and deferential to existing rule and rulers.
With this background, it is unknown what ground, if any, Ethiopian opposition parties will have going into the next election, one that should be held in about two years.
The other concern is the lack of basic security in some parts of the country, where armed groups still roam, causing deaths of hundreds and the displacement of thousands.