Why Abiy Ahmed's Prosperity Party is good news for Ethiopia
The new party is a positive step towards ending ethnic strife in the country.
In November, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed established a new pan-Ethiopian political party. It brings together three of the four ethnic-based parties that make up the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition and five other smaller parties that were previously condemned to the periphery of the country's political scene.
The establishment of the Prosperity Party (PP) only a few months before the May 2020 general election caused much controversy across the country, with even some in the upper echelons of Abiy's own government criticising the move.
Nevertheless, many Ethiopians appear to be pleased with the merger, seeing it as an opportunity to unite the country and resolve its many deep-rooted problems. Indeed, it is difficult to deny that a pan-Ethiopian party led by people who have ample experience and significant public support has the unprecedented potential to address major challenges like growing ethnic polarisation and violence.
EPRDF and ethnic strife
Ever since the downfall of the military regime in 1991, Ethiopia has been administered by the EPRDF coalition, which is made up of four parties, each representing an ethnic group: The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM).
While on paper the coalition appeared to provide equal representation to all four of its members, in reality it was dominated by its creator, TPLF. This core imbalance brought the legitimacy of the ruling coalition into question and made reforms within the EPRDF an urgent necessity.
While there had been repeated attempts to reform the coalition over the years, strong resistance from the TPLF made any meaningful change impossible. Eventually the people of Ethiopia took the matter into their own hands and held widespread demonstrations against the TPLF for three consecutive years, paving the way for real change. In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was elected as the leader of EPRDF and the prime minister of Ethiopia on the back of these protests. Read more...