The Absence of Hailemariam and Abiy at HPR’s Emergency Session: What Would it Mean?
By Gizaw Legesse
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Abiy Ahmed were absent from the Parliament’s emergency session which adopts the State of Emergency (SoE).
1). PM Hailemariam submitted his resignation one day before the Council of Ministers declared SoE. He may not agree with it, and he may not have the power to veto at the time, as the power to declare SoE is given collectively to members of the cabinet. However, he represents the council and should have presented the draft decree to the House personally. And yet the PM didn’t attend the session.
The implication is that his absence confirms his disagreement with the SoE.
There is also another implication. The PM said he will continue as PM until such time his resignation is accepted and ‘smooth’ transition of power is conducted. In addition, he also said his resignation is meant to serve as part of the solution for the ongoing political crisis in Ethiopia. However, since the SoE was declared two weeks ago, we never heard from the PM that this too is part of the solution. Hence, when he decided not to attend the parliament, he might be also trying to indicate his disbelief on the SoE as a solution.
Nevertheless, the above analysis will lose weight as the PM had the chance to attend and to abstain from voting, or even to vote against it. Of course, this would be absured, because it would mean that all members of the House are deliberating to adopt or revoke a draft decree which the head of the executive is not happy with.
Though all facts are currently confusing and unrealistic, one thing is clear for sure. The PM had no decensy to stand in front of representatives of his people to explain the relevancy of SoE, as well as to publicly show his stance on the matter. We can only assume otherwise if the PM’s resignation is currently and actually effective.
2). Abiy Ahmed was also absent. He is the recently appointed chairman of OPDO, one of the member parties of the incumbent EPRDF. Abiy is also one of the three persons nominated or expected to be the next PM. As he is from the OPDO, the party running the Oromia region where protest is deeply rooted, many have given him the highest chance to be the next PM. In fact, his educational background, military/intelligence experience, and recent speeches may have also played a great role for people’s expectations.
Here, it is important to make note of some facts and rumors. As to the fact, OPDO has 178 sits in the parliament from the oromia region only. It has also members in the House representing constituencies such as Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. In which case, one can assume OPDO had the opportunity to obtain 182 votes to revoke the SoE (1/3 of the total number of sits in the House – 547). This assumption should also be seen with the fact that Promo activists were claiming OPDO members will vote against the SoE after making direct lobbying via phone calls and SMS texts.
On the other hand, just a few days before the House held its emergency session, a rumor was circulating that OPDO officials are lobbying (or ordering) OPDO members in the House to vote for adopting the SoE. This was rather the opposite of what many Oromos and Oromo activists expected from OPDO leaders recently got applause for their reformist stance.
In short, this was both surprising and shocking for many – hard to believe that Lemma (figured as saviour of Ethiopia) and Abiy (expected to be the first Oromo PM) would want the SoE be approved by the House and would try to lobby MPs to achieve that. As I said this was a rumor, but at the end we learned that a significant number of OPDO MPs might have voted for the adoption of the SoE.
Having said that, why did Abiy, chair of OPDO, choose not to attend the emergency session? By the way, the other two nominees for that top job were present – Shiferaw Shigute (SEPDM) and Demek Mekonnen (ANDM). But why Abiy didn’t?
One simple implication: he is saying he is neither for or against the SoE. He might be saying ‘leave me out of it’. But at this particular moment, a person who is not concerned about declaring SoE in a country, or to show his position on the decision does not deserve to lead that country. In this case, those 7 MPs who were presented and abstain from voting are respectful – as they were willing to be part of the discussion.
I am not saying here that Abiy should not be given the benefit of the doubt. I am not saying also he should have attended and voted against the SoE. This would be nonsense, and may lack all-roundness.
However, as much as it is difficult to deduce an implication on Abiy’s absence, I can only claim that Abiy has already knew that the SoE will be approved whether in his presence or absence.
Looking the situation in broader perspective, attending the emergency session for Abiy would mean a responsibility to engage in the parliament’s discussion to adopt or revoke the SoE. That is Abiy is the most expected person in explaining whether the SoE is actually relevant for the Oromia region as well as for the whole country. This is his responsibility as representative of the Oromo people, chairman of OPDO, as well as an MP of the Federal parliament – as the next Prime Minister to be. In other words, by being absent, Abiy indeed have run from the above responsibilities.
Many would prefer him to attend and make his pro and con arguments about the SoE. Many would say then ‘at least he tried’ or ‘finally we know he is against the reform’. Or many also would say ‘he is after all targeting his own personal goal of becoming PM’. However, I still think he (or OPDO in general) should be given the benefit of the doubt.