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Cablegate: Political Parties Agree On Allocation of Airtime For

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 000049

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS:
TAGS:
SUBJECT: POLITICAL PARTIES AGREE ON ALLOCATION OF AIRTIME FOR
ELECTIONS

Reftel: Addis Ababa 3010

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Sixty-five Ethiopian political parties have reached
agreement on how to allocate airtime and print space of state media
for electoral campaigning. Three of these parties tabled proposals
during three days of negotiation and one suggested by the nominally
opposition Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) was finally adopted.
Available airtime and print space will be allocated by a weighted
formula that takes into account the number of seats a party has in
the parliament and the number of candidates a party fields, with a
final media tranche divided equally among Ethiopia's 96 registered
political parties. Although some opposition groups argue the
agreement unfairly benefits the ruling party, most parties
participating in the negotiations pronounce the agreement to be a
good compromise. END SUMMARY.

Negotiations
------------

2. (U) Two negotiators from each of the four major political parties
- Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), All
Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP), Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP),
Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP)- and four negotiators
selected at large from 61 smaller political parties reached
agreement on how to allocate airtime and print space on state-owned
electronic and print media. The negotiators struck a deal on
January 1 after three days of intense negotiations. The Forum for
Justice and Democratic Dialogue (Forum) and 23 smaller political
parties did not participate in the negotiations.

Three Options Tabled for Negotiations
-------------------------------------

3. (U) The formula proposed by the government-run Ethiopian
Broadcasting Authority and accepted by EPRDF and CUDP (together
comprising 401 of the 547 seats in the present parliament) suggested
that 60 percent of available media time and space be allocated
according to the number of seats a party had in the parliament, 30
percent for the number of candidates a party fielded for the
upcoming election, and 10 percent divided equally for all 96
political parties registered to compete in the election. AEUP did
not agree, arguing that EPRDF would have an unfair advantage as it
has 367 seats in the present parliament and, as the incumbent ruling
party, had the ability to field candidates for each of the 547
available seats. AEUP instead suggested 30 percent for
parliamentary seats, 10 percent for the candidates a party fielded
and 60 percent for all political parties.

EDP Seals the Deal
-----------------
4. (U) The proposal suggested by Lidetu Ayalew, Chairman of the EDP
was accepted by all negotiators. (NOTE. EDP is nominally an
opposition party but in reality generally follows the EPRDF lead.
END NOTE.) The accepted proposal will provide 55 percent of airtime
based the number of seats a party has in the parliament, 20 percent
for the number of candidates a party is able to field and 25 percent
for all political parties.

EPRDF to Have the Lion's Share
---------------------------------

5. (U) The number of seats each party has in the parliament is a
controversial issue because of the split within parties and changing
alliances following the 2005 elections. According to the
Secretariat of the Parliament, political parties and coalitions have
the following seats: EPRDF 367, Forum 60, EDP 43, CUDP 34, EPRDF
affiliates 42, and independent 1.

Non-EPRDF Negotiators Optimistic
---------------------------------

6. (SBU) According to Lidetu Ayalew of EDP, the fact that political
parties with different views were able to reach an agreement in and
of itself is a positive development. He said he was happy with the
agreement, and added that it is not the amount of airtime and print
space that is important, but how well a party uses both. Lidetu
said he plans to use EDP's allocation to address millions of voters
and explain the party's platform. Yaikob Likke of AEUP said the
agreement was not perfect and that it favored the EPRDF but that it
was nevertheless a good compromise.

ADDIS ABAB 00000049 002 OF 002


The Forum did not participate in any of the negotiated agreements
reached by political parties. Merera Gudina, Chairman of FJDD,
dismissed the agreement as a pre-arranged "EPRDF ploy." While he
didn't agree with the allocation, he said he would make good use of
what he was allocated to educate the public about the Forum's
platform.

Parties Have Yet to Agree on
Modalities of Public Debate
--------------------------------

7. (U) According to the electoral schedule published by the
National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), political parties will
campaign from February 9 to May 20.
Party negotiators have not yet agreed on the modalities of the
public debates. EPRDF is not comfortable with unscripted, unedited
live transmissions. Non-EPRDF negotiators are insisting on live
transmissions of every public debate and say the recently signed
election code of conduct (Reftel) is available to address the
concerns of EPRDF.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite the fact that opposition political
parties in Ethiopia are fragmented and weak, negotiated agreements
with the ruling party on an election code of conduct and the
allocation of airtime are steps in the right direction. In a
country like Ethiopia where the illiteracy rate is high (the GOE
admits to 60 percent, most experts estimate more than 70 percent),
the best medium to reach the electorate is the electronic media
(radio and television). Opposition political parties will now be
able to reach millions of voters. Whether the government allows
full access to the airtime and how the parties make use of it remain
to be seen. END COMMENT.

MUSHINGI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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