By Andualem Sisay
In what looks like a bid to take up the prime minister’s position, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) — one of the four members of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia — on Thursday announced Dr Abiy Ahmed as its new leader.
The party said the move was meant to strengthen it and the cause of the Oromo people, but observers say that was the clearest indication that it was going to nominate Dr Abiy for the premier’s position, left vacant by the recent resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn.
To be nominated, one has to be the party leader and a member of the national parliament.
Dr Abiy, who was the acting chairman, replaced Lemma Megerssa, who is not an MP.
Two other parties in the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front ( EPRDF) are expected to nominate candidates for the premiership and seek parliament’s approval.
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party of the late premier Meles Zenawi, is not expected to nominate a candidate, leaving OPDO, the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Front (SEPDF) of Hailemariam, which is expected to find a new chairman, and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) to fight it out.
Media reports say the current SEPDF deputy chairman Shiferaw Shigute, who is an MP, is eyeing the position, as is Redwan Hussein, who once served as federal government communications minister.
While SEPDF could be supported by the TPLF, which is the dominant partner in the coalition, it is unlikely that Redwan or Shiferaw will get the votes of the other two parties, which together have about 58 per cent of the seats in the national parliament.
ANDM has held meetings in the past week, seen as a search for a leader, with the current chairman, Gedu Andargachew, who is not an MP, likely to be replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.
Observers say the nomination of Demeke, would be a winning stroke, as he could garner 50 plus one votes, even without the support of the OPDO, which has the highest number of seats — 178 of 547 — in parliament. But that could further isolate the Oromo and prolong the political impasse.
Already, a state of emergency has been announced as the leaders strive to find a solution to the political crisis in the country ahead of elections slated for May 2020.
But will TPLF give up the premier’s position to someone it does not or will not control? This would also mean ceding control of the military, intelligence and generally the economy.