Here is how and why the Ethiopian parliament RIGGED the state of emergency vote

Here is how and why the Ethiopian parliament RIGGED the state of emergency vote

(OPride) — The Speaker of Ethiopia’s one-party parliament, Abba Dula Gamada, accused of altering the number of parliamentarians present to approve a highly controversial six-month long state of emergency and the final vote tally from the session.

The emergency law was decreed by the Council of Ministers on February 17 while lawmakers were on recess. The Constitution requires the House of Peoples’ Representatives to vote on the decree within 15 days of its declaration. Parliamentarians were called back from recess earlier this week to meet the March 4th deadline.

The disputed vote came two days after federal authorities ordered security forces to “take all the necessary measures” to quell growing protests in the Oromia state. True to form, over the weekend, security forces shot and killed at least five civilians cross western Oromia, including a 5th-grade student in Mandi and a father ten in Guder. More than 15 people, including two members of Oromia police, were wounded. Among other places, road closures reported in Gimbi, Najo, Boji Birmaji, Ambo, Gudar, Begi and Holota towns.

Here is what happened

Long known for rubber-stamping official diktats from the executive branch despite a clear separation of powers, the legislature has shown flashes of independence in recent months. Yesterday’s critical vote was preceded by a coordinated campaign whereby Oromo activists posted dozens of MPs phone numbers online, urging constituents to call and demand that lawmakers reject the draconian measure.

“The decree, if not approved by a two-thirds majority vote of MEMBERS of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, shall be repealed forthwith,” per to the Constitution’s Article 93(2)(a).

The numbers:

  • There are 547 total members of parliament.
  • Eight of the seats are vacant – due to death and other reasons.
  • That means there are 539 active members of parliament
  • The Ethiopian Constitution, the supreme law of the land, requires 359 votes or the support of two-thirds of 539 active MPs for the measure to pass.

The latest state of emergency, the second since October 2016, was expected to be highly contested, with strong opposition coming from representatives from Amhara and Oromia Regional states.

Here is how they voted:

  • Of the 539 active members of parliament, 441 MPs were present for Friday’s much-anticipated vote, according to initial update on the parliament’s Facebook page (which has since been edited), local media reports and sources close to members of parliament, who claimed viewing the original attendance sheet.
  • In an unprecedented show of defiance, 88 MPs, mostly from Oromia, voted with their conscience—rejecting the decree and throwing its legitimacy into question.
  • Seven MPs abstained.
  • 98 lawmakers did not show up for the critical vote – itself a form of protest and rebuke.
  • 346 MPs voted in favor of the decree — which is 13 votes shy of the required 359 threshold.

In the original audio and video clips sent to OPride as the voting ended, the Speaker of the House Abba Dula provided an even lower number but stated on the record that the measure passed with a two-thirds majority of “339 votes” — after reading out the constitutional mandate.The constitution is unambiguous on setting a higher bar for declaring a state of emergency. A few government sympathizers and Tigrayan bloggers have pointed to little known House of Peoples’ Representatives Working Procedures and Code of Conduct to justify today’s illegal parliamentary maneuver.

However, as legal scholar Awol Allo points out, a code of conduct “is not a law and does not have the force of a legislation, and certainly cannot be used to undercut the Constitution. It does not have the standing of an act of parliament. Even if we grant it the same status as a proclamation for the sake of an argument, a proclamation cannot modify, alter, amend, or supersede the Constitution.”

Shortly after the vote, as confusion spread in and outside the chamber, authorities went into full damage control mode, editing the official Parliament Facebook page and calling and intimidating reporters not to use the actual numbers — 441 attendance and the 346 votes in favor — in their reports. To cover up the Speaker’s botched announcement and justify the usurpation of power, they concocted a non-existent figure.

The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate was the first to edit its original report: Reverting to the fictitious figure provided by the Speaker’s office. It updated its report — without issuing a correction or providing an explanation —to say 490 MPs were present, 395 voted in favor. The Ethiopian Reporter similarly edited its initial report. Reuters’ Aaron Maasho also reported the cooked numbers—also without qualifying or attributing to a single source —while AFP journalist Chris Stein used the real tally provided by the Speaker of the House.

The bottom line and the backdrop

It is now clear that the latest state of emergency did not garner the parliamentary votes needed for implementation. It is illegal and unconstitutional. And it should be repealed.

But Ethiopia is a police state not a nation of just laws or even an illiberal democracy with a semblance of checks and balances. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in power since 1991, claimed winning 100 percent of the seats in the last election. The parliament is full of the same corrupt officials who have robbed the country’s resources and continue to dominate decision-making. In the short run, as tensions mount across Oromia amid calls for stay-at-home strikes, it is unlikely that the unconstitutional decree will be repealed.

More than the theatre and the debate over numbers, yesterday’s vote revealed something more serious: The deep and deepening schism within the ruling party and the ever-growing risk of state collapse.

Facing unprecedented public and international pressure to correct course and relentless street protests, EPRDF member parties are locked in a bitter power struggle.

Let us be clear: EPRDF is stuck and its coalition partners are deadlocked on the way forward. In that context, the contest over the emergency decree is but one of the many sinister games being concocted as various centers of power jostle to replace outgoing Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who in a shocking announcement on Feb. 15, handed in his resignation.

There are three front-runners as the succession struggle heats up. One is Demeke Mekonnen, the current deputy PM and chairman of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM). The second candidate, reportedly the favorite of the dominant Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), is Shiferaw Shigute, who earlier last month replaced Hailemariam as chairman of Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). The two will face off against Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the newly minted chairman of Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO). (ANDM, OPDO, SEPDM and TPLF makeup the hodgepodge EPRDF coalition.

ድርጅቶች ሊቃነ መናብርት ለጠቅላይ ሚኒስትርነት

The jostling for control and subtle campaigns are unusual and visible but don’t expect a fair and transparent election. In theory, the next leader will be chosen by the 180-member EPRDF Council, made up of 45 members each from the four coalition partners. In reality, the candidate that TPLF’s 45 members vote for will eventually be coronated. TPLF is widely expected to sit out the contest. However, on Sunday, citing unnamed sources, a local newspaper reported all the four chairmen of EPRDF parties are in the running for the office of the prime minister. This adds Debretsion Gebremichael to the mix. The scandal-tainted TPLF chief and former deputy PM is one of the hardliners fighting to restore the party’s one-time unquestioned hegemony.

Where do the candidates stand?

Of the four party bosses, Debretsion has the least chance of becoming prime minister. His elevation would not only be blatantly tone-deaf but it would pose an existential threat to the country’s future that is no less dire than an outright military coup.

Demeke is loathed even within his own party and among the Amhara people. He was widely expected to lose his chairmanship when the party’s central committee met last month. But he somehow survived and promises of the premiership by the TPLF may have a lot to do with it. He is part of the executive leadership that was blamed for incompetence and dereliction of duty. Along with Hailemariam, he took responsibility for the current crisis facing the country. He has been a cabinet minister since 2008. Simply put: As the party promises deep reform, Demeke is not a change agent or a reformist by any stretch of the imagination.

Shiferaw is the head of the EPRDF Secretariat. Under his watch, the ruling party nearly splintered, corruption, brinkmanship and TPLF’s factionalism run rampant and the former is now on the verge of disbanding. Hailemariam, whose six-year tenure was rocked by endless crises, is Shiferaw’s comrade and until last month SEPDM’s chair. If Shiferaw gets the top post, as it is now rumored, it would very simply be because of his loyalty to the TPLF brass and robber barons fighting to maintain the status quo. But elevating another nominal figure, with no real constituency, would make little logical or strategic sense. He lacks the charisma, oratory and gravitas to inspire confidence, gain popular legitimacy and unity the party, much less kick-starting a national reconciliation. Unlike Hailemariam, Shiferaw doesn’t enjoy the support of his own people—the Sidama, the largest of the close to 60 ethnic groups in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples region. He has long been dogged by charges of corruption.

In the eyes of many Ethiopia watchers and the majority Oromo people, Abiy Ahmed is the clear choice to lead the country out of the current abyss. Oromia has been the epicenter of the protest movement. Over the past year, Abiy and his colleagues in the OPDO, particularly the regional president Lemma Megersa —who remains the overwhelming national favorite despite bowing out of the race—have embraced most of the protesters’ demands, thereby positioning the party as a champion of political and economic reforms.

Abiy has been accused of character flaws but he could take some of the lessons from Oromia to the federal apparatus. His elevation would also satisfy Oromo’s long quest for a political power commensurate with their size and contributions. But Abiy, who two weeks ago emerged as a clear frontrunner, has apparently drawn the ire of TPLF bosses and their military-intelligence complex. His chances now appear in jeopardy.

But there are other dangers lurking ahead. First, if Friday’s dramatic “nay” vote, abstention and the strategic absence of MPs is any indication, the EPRDF-controlled parliament is due for yet another showdown—over who should be coronated as the country’s next leader and whether that leader would be subordinate to the country’s powerful military chief of staff and security head, both hardline Tigrayans.

Even if a TPLF candidate sails through parliament via yet another episode of vote rigging, such a candidate is likely to receive a frosty reception and will remain an ineffective lame duck until the next elections in 2020. A scenario where TPLF elbows through an unpopular dark horse, for example, an OPDO old-guard such as Abba Dula or an ambitious technocrat like Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu, does not portend well for EPRDF and more importantly for Ethiopia. In fact, that may well become the straw that broke the camel’s back and could actually end with EPRDF’s dissolution.

Already, TPLF honchos and their cronies — facing an inevitable decline and a creeping realization of their waning influence — are said to be considering a scenario where the federation will be dissolved and key leaders of “Lemma’s OPDO,” including Abiy, which according to insiders are described by TPLF hardliners as “the party of anarchy,” will be purged or jailed. In fact, increasing assertiveness by OPDO has moved so-called TPLF moderates into the fold of hardline elements. TPLF, without any exception and internal dissent, is fully resolved to liquidate the challenge from both the reformist wing of OPDO and the youth protesters that have demanded reform since 2014. That prospect, scary to even contemplate, would end with a bloody civil war. The stakes have never been higher.


  1. Too bad the international community has been partners with such criminal gangs for so long. Shame on those who shake hands, wine and dine with the TPLF-EPRDF criminals.

    Having said that, we all know that the people has rejected the SOE from the very outset. Now, more than ever are fighting back with whatever power they have. The boycott has already began in some places and tomorrow is the official kick-off for three day strike nation wide.

    I suggest that make the strike full blown and sustained after wards but make it targeted suctions that really bite.

    “Gabaa lagachuu”, stay at home, or market boycott is not enough. It is only symbolic, a political statement if you will.

    Step up the boycott to full blown embargo and sustain it.Targeted sanction is very important now more than ever. Don’t sell animals and animal products. Sheep, goats, hides & skins, Cows, and bulls. If we can do that and sustain it, the leather and leather product expert suffers. The meat export to gulf states suffers. Disrupting supply line creates uncertainty to export market and once hit hard it suffers forever. If our qerro can shut down the traffic and paralyze the regime, certainly this can be done safely, simply by educating our people what the impact of them not selling their produce can do to the regime. To add to that why not stop taking your coffee to the market? or cut it back?. Stopping paying tax to regime also another powerful ammunition. How can we pay tax to regime that doesn’t provide service to us, but kill us in masses?.

    Beelada gabaa basuu dhaabuu qabna. Qabeenya kessan gabaa hinbaasina: Sangaa, Hoolaa, Ree’ee, Gogaa Hoolii, Ree’ee hingurgurianaa. Buna kessan gabaa hinbasina, baastanillee harkatti qabadha. Midhanis hingurguria, gurgurtanillee harkatti qabadha. kuni otoo walirra hincinne, itti fufuu qaba. Namni humnaan gabaa basaa isiniin jedhu hinjiru.

    • Olansa,
      I respect your suggestions that sanctions will limit TPLFs buying capacity, but I fundamentally disagree with the myth that sanctions of any sort will kill a primitive killer regime like TPLF, which is but essential if the Oromo people and the country as a whole are to be freed.
      Some politicians draw unfair comparison with South Africa or India whose peaceful struggle lead to their eventual freedom. But these countries were colonized by European powers whose population enjoyed democratic governance and solid human rights at home, which in turn applied pressure on the regime to change course whereas wayane/TPLF is terrorist junta which listens only to the sound of the gun.
      Short of force, wayayne/TPLF, hence slavery of Oromos, are here to stay for many, many more decades to come, regardless of whatever soft measure we take against them.
      In short, we can not have both Wayane and Oromo live in Oromia in peace under ANY circumstances, since no Oromo mother wants to live with the killers of her children. Therefore, Oromia can only either be for Oromos or for wayanes, but NEVER for both in any given time and space. Everyone has not only the legal right, but the moral and natural instinct, and national obligation to revenge the murder and genocide of his people in self defense.
      If wayanes want Oromia to be theirs they must remove us all by force which they have been actively doing for nearly three decades, and if we want Oromia to be ours we must do the exact same, but for a just cause. But we have been wasting time either some of us collaborating with the enemy, infighting or brain-washed ourselves and our people with the illusion of “peaceful struggle” which only resulted in the death of tens of thousands of our people and displaced and impoverished millions.
      Therefore, if we want to be free and save our people, the Oromo people, political leaders, and activists must be united and change all these tried-and-failed courses in order to communicate with the enemy in a language it clearly and unmistakably understands. Some wrongly think this would require us having the same sophisticated war machinery the regime equipped itself with.
      In fact, cleaning Finfinne from TPLF terrorists is a maximum of one or two weeks if we are united among ourselves and effectively coordinate with our equally freedom-hungry brothers and sisters in the city.

  2. Well, the TPLF thugs who have controlled ‘government’ power in Ethiopia for nearly three decades have made their intended objective clear, by subjecting the Ethiopian peoples in general and the Oromo pepeole in particular, to killings, abduction, torture and unprecedented poverty. They are in Oromia to kill, imprison, disappear and torture our brothers and sisters and to blunder our resources. They are in Amhara and Southern Ethiopia for the same reason. In fact, they are even in Ogaden and other regions for similar purpose. Since TPLF gangs and their cronies are alien to Democratic Process and have no sense of justice, it is foolish for the Oromo and others to waste their time and lives just protesting. Given TPLF’s declaration of war on the peaceful protesters who have been demanding justice, the Oromo, the Amhara, the Sidama, Gurage, Gambella, and so on must up their games to defend themselves. There is no doubt that peaceful protest is essential, however, that is not the language the TPLF thugs understand. Brothers and sisters, you are justified and entitled to self-defense.

    Justice for the victims of TPLF crime against humanity!

    Olana Abbalichie

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