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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 carrying out with different political parties keeping you updated on the election that has seen the biggest voter participation yet.
The main objective of Ethiopia Raeie Party (ERaPA) in the upcoming election is to get considerable number of parliamentary seats. The party had participated in the 4th round of national election. The Ethiopian Raeie Party is led by Teshale Sebro, an international lawyer and diplomat by profession who had served in different institutions starting from Emperor Haile Selassie regime. Teshale Sebro talked to Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet on the party’s preparation for the upcoming national election. Excerpts;
Capital: How did ERaPa established?
Teshale Sebro: I was in the United States of America when the third national election was held in Ethiopia in 2005, and I understood that the election was a failure in many ways. There was no hope and appetite to elect their representatives. So after realizing this, I and my colleagues decided to form this party, which has a new vision and hope, six years ago.
Capital: How many candidates have you fielded for parliament and regional councils?
Teshale: We have presented 55 candidates for parliament and 95 for regional councils.
Capital: How is your campaign going on?
Teshale: We are doing our best, although we are hammered by many problems. For example, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation and Fana 98.1 FM stations often censure our messages, particularly those concerning justice and the rights of prisoners, we prepare for debates. We delayed the distribution of our pamphlet and brochures because some irresponsible groups will tear it down if we hang them now and we don’t have additional copies for replacement. Anyhow, we will start the distribution of information materials shortly. We also have a plan to hold a rally and public meetings but the Addis Ababa City Administration didn’t give us the go ahead until now.
Capital: How much money have you allocated for the campaign?
Teshale: Not much. We are doing the campaigning with the money that is collected fromour members and that is very small. The money the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia gave us is so small. And the money we have in our coffer is not that much to boast with. This scenario is a reflection of situations not just of ERaPa but the reflection of conditions in the country regarding elections. The opposition parties who have smaller financial capacity contest with the ruling party that has all the means. Opposition parties do not have enough strength that can balance with the finance the ruling party has.
Capital: What challenges did you face during pre-election?
Teshale: The problems we are facing were there before and they still challenge us. Around election time the political arena is very much tense. Constitutional rights are pushed aside and it is very difficult to contest in this kind of atmosphere. Negligence, egoism and disrespect for contenders prevail, which all are uncivilized acts. Generally, we are surrounded by a bunch of problems and these problems testify that we are living in a county where civilized manners are low.
Capital: What political ideology does your party promotes?
Teshale: We have clearly stated in our manifesto that our guiding ideology is Liberal Democracy which doesn’t allow the government to have its very long hands interfere in people’s everyday life. This political view seeks to change the political, economic or social status quo to foster the development and well-being of the individual. Liberals regard the individual as a rational creature who can use its intelligence to overcome human and natural obstacles to make a good life for all, and without resorting to violence against the established order.
Capital: Some people criticize that liberal democracy is a form of white capitalism?
Teshale: No, I totally disagree. Liberal democracy is not a derivative of white capitalism and it doesn’t stand to serve the wealthiest communities. Frankly speaking, revolutionary democracy is much worse than white capitalism. Liberal democracy is a system that recognizes the current situation of Ethiopia and it is this form of democracy that can better serve all people according to their needs.
Capital: Is your national development vision on industry or agriculture?
Teshale: We focus on both, but we cannot turn into an industrial nation. Similarly, we should not be stuck in agriculture. When agriculture is well developed, we transit to industry and at the end of the day we wish to create an agro industrial nation.
Capital: What type of policy will you have regarding land ownership?
Teshale: Our party advocates private ownership of land. Every land owner should utilize the land to the best benefit of the family, the society and the country. Land that is not owned by citizens will be given to investors.
Capital: What is your vision regarding the business community?
Teshale: We believe that a good administration matters a lot to grow a nation’s economy and the basic tool of an economy is commerce. The first thing we will do is to increase the number of tax payers and to effect this, we will charge business people according to their income. Businesses that get more money will pay more tax and the once who earn less income will pay less tax. But the tax we charge is not something that discourages business growth. In addition to that, we will remove the double taxation system the current government is applying. And above all, we do not allow our country to be a dumping dock for cheap foreign goods. We will also give support to businesses to substitute foreign products.
Capital: What are your plans concerning job creation?
Teshale: Creating jobs is the priority issue that we need to work hard on. If you see the 24 lines that you see on our logo it represents ERaPa’s vision that our citizens must be at work 24 hours every day. You see, our work culture is so weak, we don’t work beyond eight hours. We need the hospitals, the factories, the supermarkets to work 24 hours. We will create the rules and guidelines that can facilities 24 hours work. When people adapted to that culture, to have more than one job, they earn more income. By elongating working hours we can create more jobs in the industry, agriculture and in the service sector.
Capital: You don’t have enough candidate to form a government if your party wins the election. So what is your point in contesting?
Teshale: Of course, yes, we don’t have many candidates. Neither does other opposition parties unless they merged with others. This is a beginning for us. We are heading to win some seats in parliament and to continue challenging the ruling party in a peaceful manner. We will continue our peaceful struggle until change comes because we are a party that believes in a smooth transition of political power.
Capital: You prefer to contest alone instead of merging with other opposition parties?
Teshale: We strongly believe that forming a big party is good for the country because two is stronger than one. Yet, there is little willingness among opposition parties to realize that. They undermine each other and they don’t have the culture of peaceful dialogue to overcome their differences.
Capital: What is your view regarding foreign policy ?
Teshale: We should have smart diplomats to make good relationships with foreign countries. We will open a college that trains diplomats to achieve that vision. We want the diplomats to speak at least one international language. We will negotiate with the Eritrean government and will make the ports of Assab and Massawa beneficial to both countries. Ethiopia’s relationship with its neighbors will be a peaceful and cooperative one. Ethiopia’s relation with other countries will base on international conventions and agreements.
Lastly, I wish to convey to the government that power should be transferred by peaceful ways, not by force or anarchism. Ethiopia is a hot pot right now and we have to adjust the compass by taking each other respectfully.