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Ethiopia's legendary EPRDF coalition disbanded six months to PM Ahmed's first election challenge

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - For the first time in three decades, Ethiopians will go to polls without the once-powerful EPRDF coalition, as the Horn of Africa nation chats a new political path.

Tuesday's folding of the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF] was the culmination of a flurry of activities coordinated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the last 22 months.

Ethiopia's electoral body, NEBE, revoked the registration of the coalition on Tuesday, effectively declaring it defunct in line with existing laws, Fana reported.

EPRDF chairman had written to the board informing it that the coalition had ceased to exist, NEBE said in a statement.

Disbandment boosts Ahmed's legacy

Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian PM, has been pushing for the formation of a single party for his re-election in August, registering Prosperity Party in the process.

Folding of EPRDF boosts his quest for "medemer" philosophy, which translates to "addition", Dr. Vincent Moracha, a political analyst says.

"This is a major win for him despite the tribulations he's been facing during the process. He can now defend his inclusivity approach"

Mr. Abiy Ahmed, who backed the plan, had hailed the decision as a "crucial step in harnessing our energy to work toward a shared vision".

And the disbandment of the party now gives him an opportunity to instigate a paradigm shift in Ethiopia's rather conservative politics, Moracha adds.

EPRDF rich history

Founded in 1989, the coalition brought together a host of ethnic-based parties that defined the politics of Ethiopia for three decades.

Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF], Amhara National Democratic Movement [ANDM] and Oromo Democratic Party [ODP] were predominant parties in the coalition.

After the formation, the coalition seized powers officially from dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, ending the deadly Ethiopian civil war.

The coalition front ruled the nation for 28 years until it was replaced by the Prosperity Party (PP) last month, following Ahmed's series of radical reforms.

Since taking over in April 2018, Ahmed has been credited for sweeping reforms, including expanded democratic space compared to his predecessors.

How the coalition crumbled

With Ahmed keen to unite the entire nation, he fronted the idea of a single party, creating one center of power in the process.

And in return, founding parties ADP, ODP, and SEPDM together with five other regional parties agreed to fold for Prosperity Party, Fana added.

But dominant TPLF termed the move unconstitutional, arguing that the current administration was constituted by the coalition.

“Establishing a new party which was not elected by the people of Ethiopia is tantamount to destroying the constitution and rejecting the will of the Ethiopian public,” TPLF claimed in a recent statement

In another letter addressed to NEBE, the Chairperson of TPLF also requested the electoral board to pass decisions over the distribution of property belonging to the demised EPRDF.

EPRDF board makes a final decision

Although the electoral body observed that both parties were not entitled to declare liquidation of EPRDF, it passed the decision "based on current and future circumstances".

In a series of meetings held last year, the board unanimously approved the disbandment of the coalition, thus renouncing the legitimacy.

The board also passed decisions over the distribution of assets owned by the then EPRDF, local media reported.

The board has passed a decision that required both PP and TPLF to name a financial auditor in charge of clearing assets of the demised EPRDF.

After paying the liabilities, all four founding members of the EPRDF, namely TPLF, ADP, ODP, and SEPDM will each get 25 percent of the net proceeds, the board said.

Abiy Ahmed's next challenge

Buoyed by the recent Nobel Peace Prize award, Ahmed is keen on ethnic discrimination by forming a unity government.

Through the formation of PP, analysts argue, minority groups will find more space and perhaps have more say in the coming administration.

NEBE has already named August 16th as the tentative date for Ethiopian polls, the first competitive adventure for the PM since he took over.

Through Prosperity Party, Ahmed is eyeing the majority within parliament to extend his rule in the Horn of Africa nation.

Despite engineering the reforms, Ahmed has struggled to contain ethnic violence, which is said to have been precipitated by his changes.

Close to 100 people have died in the process, the majority of them being from his Oromo region, where he's facing resistance.