The premier's move throws the ruling coalition into disarray.Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned on February 15th after long‐running political turmoil, in an unprecedented move in the vast East African country.The decision by Hailemariam, in power since 2012, comes after months of escalating anti‐government protests and signs of growing splits within the ruling coalition.Hailemariam said he had worked hard to solve Ethiopia's problems, but that he believed his resignation was also part of the solution.“We know that we are in the process of achieving these reforms,” he told the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.“I myself want to become part of the solution.”The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and government “will make history again by conducting a peaceful power transition in our country,” he added.Hailemariam will remain in office until parliament and the EPRDF coalition confirm his resignation. He also resigned as EPRDF chairman. It remains unclear who will take over.The streets of the capital Addis Ababa were calm following the surprise announcement.Ushered into office after the death of former prime minister Meles Zenawi, a one‐time Marxist who had led the rebellion that overthrew the Communist Derg regime, Hailemariam transformed from a relatively little‐known politician into a technocrat and influential leader.While Ethiopia is one of Africa's poorest countries, Hailemariam continued a streak of rapid economic growth.Unlike many in the ruling elite, Hailemariam was not part of the rebel movement which toppled the Derg. Instead he was studying civil engineering in Addis Ababa and completing a master's degree at Finland's Tampere University when the dictator fell.Political analyst Hallelujah Lulie said the seeds of Hailemariam's departure were sown in 2015, when anti‐government protests erupted that led to hundreds of deaths and prompted the government to impose a 10‐month state of emergency in October 2016.While the decree halted the unrest, protests still erupted occasionally and the upheaval exposed divisions within the four ethnically based parties that under the EPRDF umbrella have ruled Ethiopia since 1991.“There's a general consensus that the way he handled the crises was not all that good,” Hallelujah said.Recent developments have caused the elite in the military and intelligence services to lose confidence in Hailemariam, Hallelujah said, while the regional governments at the centre of the protests – Oromia and Amhara – have increasingly shrugged off federal government control.“He is unable to control the party and he is unable to control the government, and I think it is the right decision that he resigned,” Hallelujah said.In a country long dominated by its major ethnic groups – most recently the Tigray, the ethnic group to which Meles belonged – Hailemariam comes from the minority Wolayta people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. (EBC TV, Addis Ababa; © AFP 15/2 2018)BBC Monitoring explains that Ethiopia's ethnic‐based federal constitution vests supreme executive power in the hands of the prime minister, rather than those of the head of state. Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome has a largely ceremonial role.The Council of Ministers reportedly held an emergency meeting following Hailemariam's announcement, amid media speculation that a declaration of a state of emergency was imminent.The EPRDF will elect a new chairman to succeed Hailemariam from the top leadership of the four constituent parties. The election will take place during a congress originally expected in March or April.However, the TPLF is the only constituent party that has provisionally selected its leaders for the congress.The Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation (OPDO), Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) must elect their leaders during individual party congresses as a prelude to the EPRDF gathering.The new chairman will be presented to MPs for endorsement – a formality, as the EPRDF holds all 547 seats in parliament.Likely successors are deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen, who is the chairman of the ANDM. He is widely seen as the front runner to succeed Hailemariam by default. The elevation of Demeke, an ethnic Amhara, could help pacify the ongoing protests in his region.Dr Debretsion Gebremikael is the new chairman of the TPLF and ICT minister. A Tigrayan hardliner, Debretsion is unapologetic about his ethnic group's dominance of Ethiopian affairs. His election as prime minister would be a controversial move that would deepen divisions within the coalition and inflame the unrest.Lema Megersa is the OPDO chairman and is popular with his ethnic Oromo community. However, his reformist image means the TPLF is unlikely to support his candidacy.Dr Workneh Gebeyehu is the OPDO deputy chairman and federal foreign minister.Desi Dalke is the SEPDM's deputy chairman and governor of the Southern Ethiopia Regional State. (BBC Monitoring 16/2) See p. 21761
Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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