Hailemariam Dessalegn was on the pedestal chairing the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Executive Committee meeting that went for the whole week starting March 11, 2018, for the last time. It was a must for Hailemariam to chair the Executive Committee meeting of the coalition as the statute of the EPRDF states that such a meeting has to be chaired by the chair of the party.
After resigning from his post both as the prime minister and chairman of the EPRDF exactly a month ago on February 15, 2018, Hailemariam has not appeared before the public to discuss national or party issues except for meeting foreign high profile visitors including the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, the erstwhile US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
He also cleared himself from announcing the state of emergency to the public which was decreed on the next day of his resignation.
Declaring the final stages of the meeting of the executive committee, which evaluated the depth of the inner criticism each member party conducted, Shiferaw Shigutie, the chair of the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the head of the council of the EPRDF, said that the Council of the EPRDF will meet in the coming week to “fill the leadership gap.”
In saying so, Shiferaw disclosed that the country, which has been anticipating seeing the new person to sit at the helm of the executive branch, is set to know who will replace Hailemariam.
When the 180-member Council of the EPRDF meets next week, 45 from each member party, the main task will be electing a new chair to the coalition who eventually will become the prime minister of the country.
According to the statute of the EPRDF, the Council is enshrined with the power of electing the chair and deputy chair of the Front who will also be presented for the parliament to approve.
“The speaker of the House shall give opportunity to speak to a person represented by the political party or political parties that have majority seat to appoint the Prime Minister” and the “House shall endorse by acclamation the appointment of the Prime Minister presented”, states Article 67 of the parliament’s working procedure and code of conduct.
Accordingly, the Council will appoint its chair and will get him appointed as prime minster by the parliament, without the House questioning the fitness of the person for the position.
Four people are now hopefuls for the position of Prime Minister. One of them is the new chair of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), Abiy Ahmed (PhD), who took the baton of the chairmanship from Lemma Megerssa, the president of the Oromia Regional State.
Abiy is expected to clinch on the chairmanship given the move by his party to bring him to the fore as he is the one who can represent the party for the coalition’s chairmanship because of his membership in the House of People’s Representatives.
The other is the Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, who hails from the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM). Demeke has recently been reelected to chair his home party Gedu Andargachew, president of the Amhara Regional State retaining the deputy chairmanship position.
As it was the case during the time of Hailemariam’s ascent to the premiership following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the deputy Prime Minister Demeke is another hopeful to be appointed as prime minister.
Shiferaw is the outer person to take the position given his recent appointment as chair of his home party the SEPDM, which many took as a strategic move to present him fit for the premiership.
Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), the former minister of Communication and Information Technology and coordinator of the economic cluster with the rank of deputy prime minister, is the other hopeful. Debretsion, who became the chair of the regional party Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), is also the member of the parliament which makes him fit for the position of the PM if appointed by the Council.
However, commentators say that the Council can pick any member to be its chair. Hence, there is no need to focus only on the chairs of respective member parties. Despite this, there are other contenders that say the position will go to no other than one of the chairs of each member party. They base their argument on the fact that the chairs are elected by the members of their party’s Council from which the 45 representatives come to make the 180 Council members of the EPRDF. Hence, so long as they are appointed to chair their respective parties among the pack of members, it is possible for them to represent their respective parties to run to chair the Front, thus, becoming the prime minister.
Though, the final call will be for the ballots which will be voted in secret and the coming week might show Ethiopians who will be the next prime minister.