Monday, March 06, 2006

Rubber Stamp Parliament I

By Fikru Helebo

Three months ago today, in the aftermath of the November killings and arrests of opposition leaders and supporters through out Ethiopia, I wrote an article urging opposition parliamentarians who joined parliament to withdraw from parliament. I argued in that article that the only useful purpose the presence of oppositions MPs in parliament would serve is to give legitimacy to an illegitimate regime. I directed my call for withdrawal to those parliamentarians belonging to the Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Coalition (SEPDC) because this is a group I had supported in the past. But my call could just as well have been directed at all opposition MPs. Sadly, the eleven SEPDC MPs as well as many MPs belonging to the other opposition parties have made an ill-advised decision to remain in that parliament.

It goes without saying that the opposition MPs are well within their right to join and remain in that parliament. After all, they were duly elected and they have a duty to represent the constituent that elected them. However, there is a higher duty that these opposition MPs were elected to uphold. These MPs were elected at a very critical time in the history of the nation and, as such, their main duty was to be a beacon of hope for a people that have been yearning for a representative form of government for more than three decades. They were elected to play a vanguard role in the budding movement for democracy, not to go through the motions of a rubberstamp parliament that has been tried in the previous parliament. The Ethiopian people deserve a much better representation from their elected representatives than what these MPs are willing to give it to them.

Instead, the opposition MPs have allowed themselves to be used by a regime that wants to force its fraudulent win in the May 2005 election on Ethiopians through terror and bribery. These MPs have chosen expediency over principle at a time when it is obvious that principle should rule the day. They have abandoned the awesome responsibility of doing what is right and what is in the best interest of Ethiopians that came with their election at this historic time. To put it bluntly, they have chosen to pursue their own personal interests rather than that of the public's interest. Ultimately though, it is up to the Ethiopian people to pass judgment on these opposition MPs, and the day of reckoning for them will be here before we know it. In the mean time, however, we need to keep tabs on how these MPs are doing in parliament and assess their performance or lack thereof from time to time. I will attempt to do this from the perspective of the SEPDC MPs in my next article.

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