By Staff Reporter
August 2, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Thirty-three Ethiopian political parties have demanded annulment of 20 articles in the new Ethiopian electoral draft law and amendments to 13 others. In a joint press briefing, the political parties said the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has once again emerged to be suppressive government by rejecting the voices and comments of competing political parties,
According to the new electoral draft law, which was tabled for discussion at the national parliament last week, political parties are required to have at least 10,000 registered members, up from the current 1500, to be eligible for the upcoming national elections planned to be held in May next year.
According to the new law, regional parties are also required to have at least 4000 members, up from the current law requiring 750 members.
According to some, given the political culture in Ethiopia, parties face serious challenges to recruit members so as to qualify as a political party. Those political parties which have been operational for years now claim that it is easy to recruit 10,000 members in a country where 100 million plus people live.
"We gave our comments and ideas which we asked to be included in the new electoral law to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, but all ideas were rejected, said Mersha Yosef, member of the Ethiopian National Unity Congress, during the press conference.
The new electoral law also requires a party candidate to get support of at least 3,000 signatures to run for parliamentary seat. Candidates who are running for regional government parliament are also required to have 3,000 signatures from supporters.
Critics say there should be as many political parties as possible for democracy to prevail in the country. They say the ruling party is setting hurdles against the democratization process, and that the new electoral law suppresses the right of people to elect and to be elected.
"For democracy to prevail, there should be as many political parties as possible in the country. A government which comes against this premise is suppressing the rights of people and is creating hurdles to democracy,” said Gebru Berhe, members of Ethiopian People’s National Party.
However, many political parties, including governing parties, say the 10,000 founding members requirement for a party to operate at the national level is intended to discourage tiny political parties from running in the upcoming elections. They believe if they can’t meet the threshold, they don’t have support among the people.
"Article 106, sub-article 2 of the draft law requires all parties to come up with new petitions signed by members to qualify as parties under the new law. How can a law apply retroactively? asks Gebru, a member of the Ethiopian People’s National Party.
The thirty-three political parties said they have lost confidence on the newly-formed electoral board of Ethiopia. "We believed the electoral board of Ethiopia was neutral. We have been proven wrong," said Dereje Bekele, a member of the United Ethiopian Democratic Party.
Concluding the joint press conference, the political parties have called on the social and democratic standing committee of the House of Peoples Representatives not to present the new draft law to the national parliament before their demands are addressed.
Several national and regional political parties are believed to be currently discussing the articles included in the Electoral and Political Parties draft bill.
Some political parties are also raising concerns on another article which states that the amount of financial support that a political party receives shall be determined by the number of votes it wins at Federal and State Council elections. They feel it favors those already established against the newer and upcoming ones.