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Cause for Optimism in Ethiopian Politics

Posted by Ethio Tribune on September 17, 2012

Cause for optimismAddis Ababa, September 16, 2012 (Ezega.com) – The first week of the Ethiopian New Year has brought with it a resolution to the question of succession to the late Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi. The EPRDF Council announced on Saturday its election of former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as the leader of the party and consequently the prospective Prime Minister of the country pending rubber stamping by the Parliament when it convenes for the new session at the end of this month.

 

The official selection of a leader has laid to rest questions of unrest and division within the ruling party. The issue of succession, which was perceived as pretty straightforward in the immediate aftermath of Meles’ death was clouded over with confusion soon after for several reasons.

The confusion arose because of uncertainty on pertinent sections of the constitution as well as anxiety about the party’s ability to continue into the future as a cohesive unit in the absence of its charismatic leader.

The tension was particularly exacerbated by fears that the party will resort to some form of communal leadership due to an inability to commit to one person or forego plans of succession within the party and resort to one of the leaders of the armed resistance.

On Saturday, many took a deep breath of relief when all such fears were discredited with the successful placement of the logical successor, with no visible division within the party.  

Hailemariam Desalegn is representative of the new breed of leaders in Ethiopia. If Melese Zenawi was representative of the generation of firebrands who took to the streets to bring down the imperial government and to the bushes to fight against the bloody military junta, Hailemariam is representative of the generation which matured in reflection of the bloody consequences of civil war and which is ascending to positions of authority by peaceful nomination and succession.

Where Meles Zenawi and others of his generation symbolize the passion and idealism of African politics in the 1960’s and the 1970’s the generation immediately after it, of which Hailemariam is a member, is identified with pragmatism, and a quieter and more reflective form of intellectualism as a direct consequence of the experiences of the generation before it.

This fact and the reality of such succession being possible in the ruling party, where the leaders of the armed resistance are handing over power even at the highest levels is cause for great hope for many and a great relief for those who had feared the worst in the past couple of weeks said Melku Yohannes, a young business man in Ethiopia.

Many people are content with the succession simply because it is a symbol for hope in the coming year he noted. The new Prime Minister however will be faced with a difficult task to justify this hope according to Melku.

Tension has been brewing on several fronts in the last year not least of which has been the double digit inflation rate the effect of which has been felt in food prices. The ability of the new leader to deal with this crucial problem effectively will go a long way towards determining the first impression created of his tenure. It is hard to see how this far reaching problem can be resolved in the short term but the severity of the problem makes it doubtful that the Hailemariam will be afforded much time before final judgment is passed on his ability to deal with the problem..

Another area for concern which will be inherited by the new Prime minister will be the degree of unrest amongst segments of Muslims. This issue, which has proven difficult to resolve quickly and which is suspected of being deep rooted in some areas is one that will require astute leadership and will serve to determine the new Premier’s skills of sensitive decision making.

The issue of unemployment and job creation will probably serve to showcase Hailemariam’s ability to build up on and refine the partially successful attempts to organize young people towards entrepreneurial tasks begun in the past few years.

As a former academician it can be hoped that Hailemariam will have a better understanding of the needs of college educated young people and how best to utilize this growing taskforce within the framework of the national development plans.

The new administration’s interpretation and application of controversial policies such as the much debated lease proclamation and the anti-terrorism act are also points that will determine the character and quality of the leadership according to some.

“At the end of the day it is unlikely that there will be significant changes in policy in the coming three years before election. As has been said unanimously by leaders of the government and the party from day one after Meles’ death, the party can be expected to stay true to the policies and agendas that it has set” according to Essayas, a young accountant who considers himself a ‘political critic’.

What may change is the way things will be implemented and everyone will have to wait and see if this change will be for the better or the worse he added.

Significant changes in policy or at least in implementation that will change some policies notably are not outside the realm of possibility, disagrees Melku.

“That is the essence of the hope that people have. It doesn’t even necessarily emanate from opposition to existing polices. It’s just a hope that the new leader will have the chance to leader in a manner that reflects his unique abilities and skills according to Melku.

Only time will tell how able the new Prime Minister is able to discharge the great responsibility that he has been given for the present however many Ethiopians are hopeful that the new leader will serve the nation well in the new year and beyond.

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