The EPRDF Officially Ends; The Prosperity Party Begins

By Staff Reporter

End-of-EPRDFDecember 26, 2019 ( -- The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has decided to issue a recognition certificate to the merged ruling party, known as the Prosperity Party (PP), officially announcing the demise of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition that ruled Ethiopia since 1991. The once-mighty Ethiopian party is now officially dead precisely 30 years after its formation, replaced by the Prosperity Party with little fanfare.

The immediate outcome of this transition is the increased involvement of five formerly affiliate parties (commonly known as agar parties) in federal affairs, and the removal of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) from federal power.

In early 1989, the TPLF founded the EPRDF by assembling smaller parties and groups, including individuals who were captured in the civil war by either the TPLF or the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). The EPRDF was first formed by the union of the TPLF and the Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (EPDM), now the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP). In 1990, the two were joined by the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), now Oromo Democratic Party (ODP). The Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) joined the coalition in 1992.

The EPRDF operated based on equal representation of the four-member parties in the EPRDF Executive Committee and the EPRDF Council, although dominated and led by the TPLF. After assuming power in 1991, the front went on to establish federal entities known as 'Kilil,' curving new regions such as Oromia and Southern Ethiopia regions out of former provinces, to be governed by EPRDF member or affiliate regional parties - a move many blame for the start of the division of Ethiopia along ethnic lines.

The situation began to unravel after the death of Meles Zenawi in 2012, the TPLF and EPRDF leader, who served first as President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and then as Prime Minister from 1995 to 2012. By 2018, the revolt of the other three parties against the TPLF was complete, culminating in Abiy Ahmed becoming the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the leader of the now-defunct EPRDF.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia in a statement said the decision was passed in light of political parties’ registration and election proclamation 1162/2011.

The three founding members and five affiliate parties of the former coalition EPRDF have cheered the board’s decision to recognize PP as their united party in replacement of the EPRDF.

“The parties that merged to form Prosperity Party are Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP); Benishangul-Gumuz Democratic Party (BDP); Oromo Democratic Party (ODP); Amhara Democratic Party (ADP); Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM); Somali Democratic Party; Gambela Peoples Democratic Movement (GPDM); and Harari National League (HNL)," the board said.

The Tigray Peoples Revolutionary Front (TPLF), a party that engineered the EPRDF and dominated Ethiopian political power for 27 years, however, boycotted the formation of the PP. It claimed the new party violated the political and legal procedures of the EPRDF, an assertion rejected by the ruling group in Addis Ababa.

Introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in an attempt to address dysfunction, disunity and low popularity of the EPRDF, the Prosperity Party is not going to be the direct representative of any particular ethnic group. Instead, it will try to be an all-encompassing national party that speaks for the entire Ethiopian people.

With the PP as a pan-Ethiopian party, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed aims at uniting a long-divided country along ethnic lines and bringing shared development vision for the country.

Critics, however, say Abiy and his associates failed to take into account a range of constitutional, ideological and representational issues that could bring the legitimacy and representative capacity of the newly formed political party into question.

The board said the Prosperity Party submitted an application to the election board earlier this month seeking recognition. The Board requested additional documents after receiving the application before passing decisions.

“The way the parties ended their own existence, and the agreements they made to merge themselves to form the Prosperity Party is in line with legislative requirements, and the board has decided to cancel their individual party status and recognize them as the Prosperity Party," the board announced.

Three members of the former ruling coalition party, the now-dead EPRDF, and five other ally parties reached an agreement to end their existence and form the Prosperity party on December 1, 2019 – days before the application for recognition was submitted.

The Prosperity Party is required, as per legislation 1162/2011, to present audit reports to the Election Board in six months.

Now the TPLF is the only member of the EPRDF that opposed the merger of the parties on alleged grounds that the process did not follow the right procedure and is legally invalid.

The TPLF’s position is that since the member parties of the EPRDF won the last national election as members of the EPRDF, those who opted to merge should resign from government positions.

On the other hand, the TPLF itself has been mobilizing an assortment of political forces allegedly to “rescue the constitution and the federal system.” These political forces, which the TPLF calls “Federalists,” tend to see the formation of the Prosperity Party as a move to end the Federal form of government and introduce a unitary government, which officials of the PP argue is a “baseless accusation.”

It is unclear if the TPLF will gain followers of any significance in Ethiopian political affairs any time soon.

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