7.3 Politics

Ethiopia is governed as a federal parliamentary republic. The federation consist of 9 semi-autonomous regions, divided according to ethnicity, and two city regions. The regions have power to raise and spend their own revenues. The parliament have two chambers; House of People’s Representatives (the lower chamber) with 547 members and House of the Federation (the upper chamber) with 110 member. The presidency acts as head of state and is elected by the House of People’s Representatives and House of the Federation for a six-year term, but have little political power. The prime minister is chosen by the majority group in the House of People’s Representatives. The Council of Ministers is selected by the prime minister and approved by the House of People’s Representatives.

The political system in Ethiopia is divided into an executive, legislative and judicial branch. The executive branch is the president, prime minister and the council of ministers. Most political power is held by the prime minister. The legislative branch is the parliament. The judicial branch is more or less independent. The president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People’s Representatives; for other federal judges, the prime minister submits candidates selected by the Federal Judicial Administrative Council to the House of People’s Representatives for appointment.

An important and disputed characteristic of the current political system in Ethiopia is the federal system, with regions drawn according to ethnic lines. The constitution even give the right of secession to any nationality within Ethiopia. This is not surprising considering that TPLF started out as a secessionist movement and joined forces with other ethnically based movements. At blog sites such as blogspot.com many posters express concern about ethnic division in Ethiopia and some accuses Meles Zenawi for using divide and conquer strategies.

The regions in Ethiopia are semi-autonomous. Each region have a Regional State Council which is elected by popular vote. The election for the House of People’s Representatives in the federal parliament is held every five years. The election of the regional councils are conducted by the respective region. The members of the House of the Federation are elected by the regional councils, and is chosen for a 5 year term. The current regions in Ethiopia are the following including two charter cities:

In the 2005 election EPRDF got the majority votes and holds 327 of the 547 seats in the House of People’s Representatives. The two major opposition groups Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) got 109 seats and 52 seats respectively. Allegation of election fraud were raised by the opposition. Unrest stirred up in Addis Ababa in protest against the alleged fraud. The government cracked down hard on the protesters, leading to close to hundred deaths and several hundreds arrests.