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Cablegate: Ethiopia: Four Parties Sign Electoral Code Of

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FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: FOUR PARTIES SIGN ELECTORAL CODE OF
CONDUCT WITH A SPLASH

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After nearly three months of often tedious
negotiation, four Ethiopian political parties -- including
the ruling EPRDF -- have signed a preamble to a code of
conduct (CoC) intended to govern the political campaign
leading to the May 2010 parliamentary elections. Speaking at
the October 30 signing ceremony, Prime Minister (and EPRDF
Chairman) Meles Zenawi announced that the CoC would force all
political parties to act in a way that will allow the
elections to meet universal standards for fairness.
Representatives of the three involved opposition parties --
AEUP, CUD, and EDP -- generally spoke of a sense of mutual
trust that emerged from the lengthy negotiations. CUD
spokesman Ayele Chamisso struck the only negative note when
he alleged that the nonparticipation of the Forum opposition
coalition put into question its commitment to democracy. The
CoC itself will now be submitted to a standing committee in
Parliament for enactment of implementing legislation. The
CoC's preamble suggests that the negotiating group that
produced it will be made permanent and will assume
jurisdiction over grievances involving alleged mistreatment
of party members and alleged misconduct on the National
Electoral Board. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Four political parties, collectively accounting for
85 percent of the seats in the Ethiopian Parliament, have
signed a five-page "preamble" to a "Joint Agreement on the
Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties," intended to
guide political behavior during the dawning campaign season
leading to May 23, 2010 national elections. (NOTE. An
English-language version of the preamble (e-mailed AF/E) was
made available at the signing ceremony. The Code of Conduct
(CoC) itself is nine pages and was not signed at the October
30 ceremony. Rather, it will be incorporated by reference
into a 15-page proposed legislative package to be considered
by the Ethiopian Parliament's standing committee on
legislation. END NOTE.) Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,
chairman of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF), made a surprise appearance at the
October 30 signing ceremony and addressed a Sheraton Hotel
ballroom packed with Ethiopian and international dignitaries.
Taking an expansive view of the effect the CoC will have on
the campaign, Meles said: "(T)he document will force
opposition parties to compete in the elections in a
meaningful and legal manner only. It will force the ruling
party to provide adequate, lawful, and impartial venues to
opposition political parties. The adoption of the (CoC) is a
great achievement as it will enable the ruling party and the
opposition to compete in elections that fulfill democratic
standards."

3. (SBU) All Ethiopian Union Party (AEUP) Chairman Hailu
Shawel called the CoC "a great stride forward," adding that
the negotiating process that produced its preamble had left
the participating parties "looking at each other with trust
in place of previous suspicion." A widely circulated photo
from the signing ceremony had Meles shaking hands with Hailu,
who was controversally jailed and sentenced to life in prison
(later pardoned) upon being convicted of attempting to
overthrow the government by force in the aftermath of the
2005 elections.

4. (SBU) The chairmen of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP)
and the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) -- both
technically opposition parties but largely in step with EPRDF
policy -- were similarly full of praise for the CoC. CUD
Chairman Ayele Chamisso had the only negative comment of the
30-minute signing ceremony. Referring to the opposition
Forum for Democratic Dialogue (Forum), Ayele said its
nonparticipation called into question its commitment to
democracy, and he called on the Forum's eight constituent
parties to re-engage.

5. (SBU) COMMENT. The Ethiopian Partners Group (EPG) of
foreign missions in Addis Ababa originally proposed that
Ethiopian political parties adopt an electoral code of
conduct, and the three-month interparty process that yielded
the CoC preamble is testament to the seriousness with which
at least these four parties take international community
opinion. Political hyperbole aside, however, the signing of
a CoC preamble does little of itself to ensure free and fair
elections. Although the signing of the preamble is a welcome
piece of rare good news on the Ethiopian political scene, it
is very modest. There remain daunting procedural and
substantive questions: Will these four parties and other
important players (including the National Electoral Board
(NEB)) manage to draft a consensus legislative package to
give the CoC the force of law?; Will the negotiating group
(now dubbed the "Joint Council") evolve into a body with real

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capacity and jurisdiction to deliberate over thorny questions
involving political prisoners and NEB misconduct, as
envisioned vaguely in paragraph 16-17 of the preamble)?; How
will the EPRDF-controlled police and judicial structures
react to what could amount to parallel Joint Council
jurisdiction over claims of official misconduct? Stay Tuned.
MUSHINGI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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