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It is election season in Ethiopia with voters scheduled to go to the polls on May 24, 2015 for the fifth national election since the current government took power. According to figures, a total of 6,000 parliamentary candidates have been fielded by 58 political parties across the country.
Nearly 35 million Ethiopians have registered to cast their votes and the result of the election is set to be announced on June 22, 2015. Capital will be following the election process through different consecutive interviews it will be having with different political parties, keeping you updated on the election that has seen the biggest voter participation yet.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a party that has been ruling the country for the past 23 years, is one of the major contestants with a big number of representatives running for parliamentary and House of Federation seats in the upcoming election. The party is hugely preparing for the coming election to run the country for another five years. Reday Halefom, Head of Public Relations for EPRDF, sat with Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet to share some points on what the preparations are like and other issues. Excerpts:
Capital: The May election is approaching, how is your preparation going?
Reday Halefom: Like we did on the previous four elections, we have prepared well enough to have a participatory, fair and free election that guarantees and respects voter’s voice. And to effect these, we have prepared an election strategy. We give great emphasis for the Political Parties Ethics proclamation that guide’s political parties on electoral code of practice in order to bring sustainable peace and development. We have already started our campaign through television, radio and other print and social media. The media campaign will continue till the electoral board announces campaigning time is over. To realize these, we gave enough training for our higher and middle level officials and other members on the election ethics and proclamation of election before we entered into the campaign.
Capital: How many candidates will you field for parliament?
Reday: Nationwide, we have 501 candidates who run for parliamentary seats, and for Regional Councils we have 1,359 candidates. When we look the number of women, 37 percent of the total candidates run for parliament, while 46 percent of our candidates running for House of Regional Councils are also women.
Capital: How much money EPRDF has dedicated for the campaign?
Reday: It is known that the Electoral Board gives money based on the number of candidates parties will have, the number of women candidates parties will field, financial capacity parties have, and some other requirements. The money is allocated equally for all political parties according to the criteria. EPRDF was given some amount of money based on the criteria, and we have also our own budget which comes from members’ fee. To know the aggregate, it needs some calculation and I can’t tell the exact figure now.
Capital: Will you have a policy change if you win the election?
Reday: As everybody knows, EPRDF’s policies emanate from the people and they benefited the public. Our different policy and strategies had made the country, which was known by poverty, to register a double digit fast economic growth and we will continue to bring more result if we win the election. We will continue the renaissance walk that we have started and have made a good progress so far. We will intensify small and medium enterprises who will have a key role in the formation of an industrialized nation. We will create more jobs by giving more loans to entrepreneurs, contractors, manufacturers and will fight corruption and maladministration. We will revitalize agricultural production and increase export. Train and road networks will also be done intensively to connect every corner of the country. Building more universities and hospitals is also our top agenda. As far as the current policies give good results, we will continue to strengthen them to create a more developed Ethiopia.
Capital: What do you say about the land policy?
Reday: We do not want to change the policy that guaranteed land for the government. For several years, people were fighting with each other because of poor land policy but EPRDF changed that policy and it gives benefits for everybody.
If land was privatized, we couldn’t have the development we made so far. We have seen in some other African countries where land is privatized, government faces challenges to build infrastructures like hospital and roads which benefit the society. So for the good of the mass, privatizing land is not a good idea if we want to continue being in the fast development zone.
Capital: Some opposition parties and observers had rejected results of the previous election. What do you say about that?
Reday: The problem occurred when opposition parties denied the results; any party must respect the people’s voice. We have seen from experience opposition parties accepted the process up to the election, and when the forecast indicates victory will be to EPRDF, they start crying foul, defamation and other things that blacken the smooth process of the election. In 2010, majority of the opposition parties accepted the results. When we see the current election, almost most parties followed a good discipline but some were doing ill-willed things by telling people not to receive voters’ card because they are weak to compete in a peaceful way. Because they were not preparing enough to compete with EPRDF, they turn up after a long time of absence and roar every time there is election.
Capital: Some opposition party leaders, bloggers and journalist are in jail. It is said that this situation would cast shadows on the atmosphere of the election. Do you think it will do so?
Reday: Absolutely not. Elections are shadowed when government fails to protect the rule of law. Ballots will be nothing when rule of law is breached and disorder-mongers and terrorists walk boldly in the streets. What all of us need to know is we are living in a country where people are ruled by law. When someone breaks the law, whether he or she is a politician, religious person, journalist or whatever you name it, that individual faces a punishment. And election is guaranteed when the law is upheld.
When we see the current election atmosphere, more than 35 million people took voters’ registration card and it has more competing parties than the previous election. We cannot say the atmosphere is dark because the fact is far from that. But some groups do not see the light because, for them, election should be filled by quarrels, riot- mongering and some other unlawful things.
Capital: Some also criticize EPRDF of stealing ballot boxes to win the election?
Reday: EPRDF is not a party who indulges in such kind of nasty things. We have millions of supporters who witnessed the democracy we have guaranteed, the development we have achieved which speaks for itself. What worries us is how to score more development to better satisfy the Ethiopian people. What we are thinking now is how we can expand the infrastructure and other big projects by speeding our development.
Capital: Some opposition parties say they will make peace with Eritrea if they win the election. What is EPRDF’s view?
Reday: As a people, we Ethiopians have no problem or hate for Eritrean people. The Eritrean people are our best sisters and brothers and it doesn’t need any peace deal to get back together; because we never had a feud with them. But we won’t have peace with the Eritrean government unless and otherwise it has stopped terrorizing our country and the region. We don’t wonder some groups or parties will say they will start to make a peace deal with the Eritrean government because they have already started doing it to usher in Isaias Afwerki’s plan to disturb Ethiopiag