Innovation out of the ashes of Ethiopian Constitutional Crisis?

(By Dr. Tsegaye R Ararssa), Aug 8, 2020

In an unprecedented move in Ethiopia’s constitutional history, Tigray National Regional State (TNRS) has amended its Constitution to introduce a Mixed Electoral system (alias known as Mixed Member Proportional system).

Accordingly, voters in Tigray will now have the opportunity to vote for their local candidate as well as for their preferred political party.

This system is quite an improvement on the first-past-the-post system (alias plurality system) that has been the only electoral system in Ethiopia to date. Its key advantage is that it will conserve all the votes that could have been ‘wasted’ in the first-past-the-post system (because they are given to the minority party), and convert them into parliamentary seats precisely in proportion to the number of votes counted.

One of the most obvious meanings of this system for the individual voters is that their votes are valued and counted for what they are worth.

Its greater political advantage for the society is its inclusiveness as it also avails seats for parties in proportion to the votes, they garnered irrespective of the fact that they did not claim most of the votes.

In so doing, it boosts the representative quality of the State Parliament thereby assuring all parties that no electoral participation is without gain. This in turn averts political despair among parties and keeps voter cynicism at bay.

This is nothing short of a constitutional innovation for Ethiopia, albeit only at the subnational level. (This was the least to have been done at the ‘national’ level, short of adopting the Proportional Representation (PR) System in its entirety.)

It looks like the constitutional crisis at the Federal level has now created the opportunity for constitutional innovation at the State level.

For Tigray, the crisis has become a moment, or a ‘site’, of critique of Abiy’s dictatorial madness, a generative site for a more inclusive democracy at the state level. Finally, the Ethiopian constitutional crisis seems to have yielded a rupture (albeit unwittingly).
This seems to be a truly critical crisis, a crisis that interrogates the shortcomings of the Ethiopian system. It seems to be a generative crisis, too. A crisis that produced constitutional creativity and a new moment of constitutional innovation.
Perhaps herein lies the germ of constitutional redemption for Ethiopia. Perhaps….
Of course, Tigray could have gone further down the road of a full-fledged constitutional reform, but perhaps that is too much to expect at these tumultuous times.
#Abiy_is_the_past!

This seems to be a truly critical crisis, a crisis that interrogates the shortcomings of the Ethiopian system. It seems to be a generative crisis, too. A crisis that produced constitutional creativity and a new moment of constitutional innovation.

Perhaps herein lies the germ of constitutional redemption for Ethiopia. Perhaps….
Of course, Tigray could have gone further down the road of a full-fledged constitutional reform, but perhaps that is too much to expect at these tumultuous times.
#Abiy_is_the_past!




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