Opposition parties operating in Ethiopia, with the exception of the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD – Medrek), signed an Electoral Code of Conduct with the ruling party, TPLF, on October 30, 2009. The Electoral Code of Conduct was negotiated among the four political parties for several weeks, according to the report. FDD/Medrek, the major opposition coalition, boycotted the talks after demanding a bilateral negotiation with the ruling party on the independence of the Election Board, the release of thousands of political prisoners and the respect of the law that the ruling party violated on a daily basis.
“Cease Fire” Declaration by the Ruling Party
The Electoral Code of Conduct, if indeed the ruling party observes it, will be a “cease fire” – temporary relief – for the peoples of Ethiopia from TPLF’s harassment and intimidation. No one, in the last 18 years, has heard a TPLF official complaining to the world about being intimated, harassed, imprisoned and executed by another political party operating in the country. It is the reverse that has always been the case. Opposition political figures have been intimated, harassed, imprisoned and, in some cases, executed by TPLF. A “Code of Conduct”, electoral or otherwise, is, therefore, needed for TPLF, and not the opposition. Regardless, the ruling party has been breaking its own Constitution daily; the stoppage of harassment and intimidation for 6 months (between December 8, 2009 – when the election season will be kicked off – and May 23, 2010 – the election day), after illegally weakening the capacity of the opposition for the last four and half years, is nothing but a political tinsel show.
It is to be remembered that after killing more than 200 opposition supporters at the end, Chairman Meles Zenawi had lauded the “process leading up to the 2005 election was democratic.” The 2010 election “process” is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2009. Accordingly, the “let’s be democratic from now on” attitude of TPLF will run from December 8, 2009 to May 22, 2010. The election day is vote rigging day, so that is not part of the “process leading ‘up to’ the election.” From then on, it’s the last 18 years in rerun: harassment, intimidation, imprisonments, and executions all over again.
The Electoral Code of Conduct
An investigation about other countries’ electoral codes of conduct reveals that the Electoral Code of Conduct (read the full Amharic document here – AigaForum.com) agreed upon by the four political parties in Ethiopia is eerily similar to that of Mugabe’s. Mr. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, after signing the Electoral Code of Conduct, continued to intimidate and harassment Zimbabweans in the March 2008 election. After the election, the Zimbabwe Election Commission confirmed that Mugabe and his party, known as ZANU-PF, had lost control of Parliament to the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. However, Mr. Mugabe refused to relinquish power and began violent cracking down on the main opposition.
Zimbabwe’s Electoral Code of Conduct is provided at the bottom of this article for reference.
The essence of having an Electoral Code of Conduct is not for a photo-op at a signing ceremony at the Sheraton Addis. Most probably, Mr. Mugabe did likewise at the signing ceremony of his version of the Electoral Code of Conduct in 2008. As Dr. Merera Gudina, the leader of FDD/Medrek, said in an interview with the Andinet North America Association of Support Organization (ANAASO) over the weekend, the ruling party has signed “countless” documents with the opposition only to break them immediately after the signing ceremony. Dr. Gudina also lambasted the signing performance as a “political theater.” According to Dr. Merera Gudina, the ruling party is not ready to observe the laws of the land, including the just signed Code of Conduct. “Even the ruling party knows it well that it can not win an election without intimidating voters and rigging votes.”
(Listen to the full interview of Dr. Gudina with ANAASO.)
ELECTORAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR POLITICAL PARTIES AND CANDIDATES (Zimbabwe)
1. The purpose of this Code is to promote conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections and a climate of tolerance in which electioneering activity may take place without fear or coercion, intimidation or reprisals.
2. This Code will apply to political parties and their candidates, members, supporters and agents.
3. Every political party and every candidate must comply with this Code and —
(a) in the case of a political party, instruct its candidates, persons who hold political office in the party and its representatives, members and supporters to comply with this Code and any applicable electoral laws;
(b) in the case of a candidate, instruct the representative and supporters of the candidate to comply with this Code and any applicable electoral laws;
(c) take all reasonable steps to ensure such compliance.
4. Every political party and every candidate must —
(a) give wide publicity to this Code;
(b) publicly state that everyone has the right —
(i) to freely express their political beliefs and opinions;
(ii) to challenge and debate the political beliefs and opinions of others;
(iii) to canvass freely for membership and support from voters;
(iv) to attend public meetings convened by others;
(v) to distribute campaign material;
(c) publicly condemn any action that may undermine the free and fair conduct of elections;
(d) accept the result of an election or challenge the result by due process of law.
5. Every political party and every candidate must co-operate —
(a) with other parties to minimise the risk of electoral-related conflict; in particular they must endeavour not to call public meetings, marches or rallies that coincide with those called by another party or candidate contesting the election;
(b) with the election authorities to protect and enhance their role to supervise and administer elections;
(c) with law enforcement officers to maintain peace during the election period.
6. No political party, candidate, member or supporter may
(a) harm or threaten to harm others participating in an election;
(b) use language or act in a way that may provoke violence or intimidation;
(c) publish false or defamatory allegations about a party, its candidate(s), representatives or members;
(d) discriminate on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class or religion in connection with an election or political party;
(e) damage or deface property, including the election posters, placards, banners and other election material of another party or candidate;
(f) bar or inhibit access to meetings or to voters for the purpose of election campaigning;
(g) carry or display weapons at political meetings or at marches, demonstrations, rallies or other public political events;
(h) bribe or threaten a voter to vote for a particular candidate;
(i) force a voter to reveal the identity of the candidate voted for;
(j) disrupt the work of election officials at a polling station or counting centre;
(k) campaign or display campaign material within 200 metres of a polling station or counting centre.
———————– Source (ACE Electoral Knowledge Network)