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Cablegate: Revised Political Parties Registration Proclamation

VZCZCXYZ0017
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #3370/01 3521238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADX 0DDD25/MSI3704)
R 171238Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3113
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 003370

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM ASEC ET
SUBJECT: REVISED POLITICAL PARTIES REGISTRATION PROCLAMATION

REF: REF: FOLLIARD AF/E E-MAIL OF 12-12-08

Summary
--------

1. (SBU) Ethiopia's revised Political Parties Registration
Proclamation (reftel) came into effect on September 24, 2008
instituting additional new reporting requirements that will
further dampen opposition parties' ability to raise funds and
compete in Ethiopia's ever-shrinking political space. The
revised Proclamation allows the National Electoral Board
(NEB) to monitor more closely the financial activity of
political parties by requiring the disclosure of funding
sources, including names of donors. Opposition parties have
already reported a loss of funding from supporters who now
fear persecution. Three prominent opposition party leaders
said that they have not received any of the financial support
from the Ethiopian Government (GoE) that the Proclamation
entitles them to, and do not expect any funding from the NEB
until just before the 2010 national elections when it will be
too late to use the funds to organize and campaign. End
Summary.


Registration of Political Parties
---------------------------------

2. (U) The revised Proclamation requires prospective
political parties to submit several documents not previously
required with the application for registration of a political
party. These include the names and addresses of the party
leaders (Art. 8(2)(d)), statements of consent from the
leaders to act as leaders (Art. 8 (2)(d)), a document signed
by founding members and opened to the public (Art. 8(2)(e)),
a document showing that the political party leaders are
elected by the General Assembly (Art. 8(2)(f)), and a
document containing the name and address of the political
party auditor (Art. 8(2)(g)). The registration fee is not
specified in the document, stating that the amount shall be
determined by the NEB (Art. 8(6)).


Obligations of Political Parties
--------------------------------

3. (U) In addition, under the revised Proclamation,
political parties must: 1) submit a document showing the
required number of members- 1,500 for a country-wide party
(Art. 5(1)(a)), 750 for a regional party (Art. 6(1)(a)); 2)
notify the NEB if forming a front, union, or coalition (for
the purposes of upcoming elections) 30 days prior to the
issuance of a time schedule for local or general elections
(Art. 19(1)(b)); and 3) submit financial reports including
all sources of income and the names of the people who made
contributions/donations whenever the NEB requires (Art.
54(2)). In addition, an article was added requiring
political parties to inform the NEB immediately when new
officials are elected (Art. 21 (1)). An article of the
Proclamation also stipulates that "it shall be punishable by
law where a political party with a view to introduce its
political aims by force or duress, organizes or trains or
recruits by coercion a person or group" (Art. 57(2)).

Political Party Financing
-------------------------

4. (U) The revised Proclamation states that the government
may/will (ambiguity in English/Amharic translation) grant
support to political parties with representation in Federal
and State Houses of Parliament to conduct their day- to- day
activity and election purposes (Art. 42). (NOTE: Day- to-
day activity is defined to include developing political
consciousness of the public, acquainting the public with the
aims of the party, agitation to enable citizens to have
active participation in the political activity of the
country, and strengthening a harmonious relationship between
the public and government institutions. END NOTE.)
Government funding for election purposes shall be available
only for elections to Federal or State Houses, not for local
elections (Art. 47(1)). The Proclamation stipulates that
support granted to political parties shall be apportioned
between the parties on the basis proportional to their number
of seats in Federal of State Houses (Art. 45(2)(a)). For
election purposes, support will be granted based on the
number of candidates nominated by the political parties and
the number of women candidates nominated (Art. 45(2)(b)). The
Proclamation is unclear as to what recourse opposition
parties have if they do not receive grant support.

5. (U) The Proclamation prohibits several sources of
funding, including funding from terrorist organizations,
government organizations, unknown sources, an organized group
or person assuming state power in a manner other than
provided under the Constitution, and any body or person that
contributes in exchange for inappropriate or unlawful benefit
(Art. 52). Foreign nationals are explicitly prohibited from
funding political parties (Art. 51(1)(a)). Also, where a
political party is found to have accepted financing from
commercial and industrial activities, those assets will be
confiscated and the party will be liable under the
appropriate law (Art. 53).


Views from Opposition Leaders
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) Many opposition parties are struggling financially,
especially outside of Addis Ababa. When asked whether they
have received any financial support from the GoE to which the
Proclamation entitles them, Oromo Federalist Democratic
Movement (OFDM) Chairman and Member of Parliament (MP) Bulcha
Demeksa and Oromo People's Congress (OPC) Chairman and MP
Merera Gudina said they have never seen a cent. To make
matters worse, Diaspora funding has decreased in recent years
compared to the run-up to the 2005 elections. When asked why
they did not raise the issue of GoE financial support in
Parliament, they said it is impossible to raise because the
Parliamentary Advisory Committee (with a 94% EPRDF
membership) kills it every time it is raised. Bulcha and
Merera also noted that challenging the government in court
would be prohibitively expensive. United Ethiopian
Democratic Forces (UEDF) Chairman Beyene Petros predicts that
the NEB will wait to disburse funds until just before the
2010 elections, preventing the opposition parties from using
the funds to organize and campaign. All three of the
Chairmen expressed frustration with the international donor
community for not insisting on the disbursement of funds by
the NEB.


Comment
-------

7. (SBU) While most provisions of the Proclamation are well
founded in principle, we view the Proclamation as yet another
success of the GoE and ruling party to legislate the de facto
stifling of political opposition that has prevailed since the
2005 national elections. In just the two months since this
Proclamation came into force it has had the chilling effect
of reduced funding (both domestically and from abroad) on
opposition parties that those parties warned would come. The
prohibition on funding from foreign nationals has eliminated
much of the Diaspora,s contribution to Ethiopia's political
parties, while the imperative to name all funders has further
intimidated opposition supporters who fear being targeted by
the GoE or ruling party cadres. While the prohibition on
parties engaging in commercial or industrial activities would
seemingly strip the four parties within the ruling coalition
of their massive revenues gained from party-owned
endowment, conglomerates, or party-statals,, which
dominate much of the Ethiopian economy, we expect a nuanced
legal distinction has been, or will be, made exempting them
from this section of the law. Finally, while the
proclamation provides for funding from the GOE, those funds
need to be provided in a timely manner or it will make it
impossible for the opposition to participate meaningfully in
the election. In sum, this legislative action, passed
without consultation with the opposition and over its chorus
of dissent, has further cemented the dominance of the ruling
EPRDF in Ethiopia's ever-shrinking political space. End
Comment.
YAMAMOTO

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