A socio-political profile

Published : Jun 23, 2001 00:00 IST

POST-Second World War Ethiopia comprised 14 provinces, one of which was Eritrea. With the fall of the Derg regime and the adoption of a new Constitution in December 1994, Ethiopia (without Eritrea) now comprises nine 'States' and two city administrative councils of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.

The three largest region-specific nationalities are the Oromo, the Amhara and the Tigray. Hence, all but three of the 178 members elected from Oromia belong to the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the remaining three being classified as 'private'. Similarly, all but two of the 138 members elected from Amhara belong to the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the two remaining ones being from the OPDO; and all the 38 members elected from Tigray belong to the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Some members from all these parties, as well as others, including Opposition parties, are elected from Addis Ababa, the country's capital. Thus, the 23 members elected from Addis Ababa include 10 from the ANDM, three from the TPLF, four from the OPDO, all part of the EPRDF, two from the Ethiopian Democratic Party, one from the All Amhara People's Organisation and three 'private' candidates. One of the two members elected from Harari State belongs to the OPDO.

However, there is by and large a clear and near absolute correlation between the State and the dominant political formation. This is probably the case even with the most complex of these States, the 'State of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples', whose ethnic mix, as its nomenclature makes clear, is too complex and delicate to allow a straightforward nomenclatural denomination. Of the 123 members elected from this State, 112 belong to various ethnic parties which together constitute the Southern Ethiopia People's Democratic Front (SEPDF), one of the constituents of the ruling EPRDF.

The evolution of such a correlation seems to have been consciously encouraged by the TPLF, whose own correlation with the State of Tigray is absolute and perfect. Hence the accusation levelled against the TPLF that it is pursuing a policy of 'ethnic federalism' with dangerous implications for the consolidation of a broader Ethiopian nationhood. Of course, the charge begs the question whether a broader Ethiopian nationhood even at the level of the ruling classes had been achieved in the past since the seemingly consolidated Ethiopian state turned out to be quite fragile in the declining years of imperial rule.

The structure and composition of the House of Federation whose members are elected by the nine State Councils is even more complicated. Article 61 (2) of the Constitution says: "Each nation, nationality and people is represented in the House of Federation by at least one member. Each nation or nationality or people shall be represented by one additional representative for each one million of its population." As presently constituted, 58 nations, nationalities and peoples are represented in the House of Federation.

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