Ethiopian opposition vows to change constitution if elected
Published April 11th 2005 in Sudan Tribune

ADDIS ABABA, Apr 9, 2005 -- The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), the umbrella organization of four multinational opposition parties, has proposed sweeping changes to the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) as one element of its election platform in the Election Manifesto it released on Wednesday April 6, 2005.

The proposed changes are said to have been made with the view to making the constitution more friendly to human and democratic rights, curbing the powers of the executive and ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

The coalition, which is composed of the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP), the Ethiopians Democratic Union Party-Medhin (EDUP-Medhin), the Ethiopian Democratic League (EDL) and Rainbow Ethiopia: Movement for Social Justice and Democracy (Rainbow), has proposed an extensive list of amendments to make in the current constitution, including the most obvious one to Article 39 which provides for the rights of peoples, nations and nationalities, including and up to secession.

CUD's Election Manifesto says that the way these rights are provided for in the present constitution fails to take into account and balance the multitude desires, interests and views of the Ethiopian people.

"Therefore," says the manifesto, "it will be amended in a way that will ensure the rights of citizens both in their individual and collective capacity to self-determination with the view of making it consonant with the desires not only of those who want to secede but also those who want to stay together."

The coalition intends to modify the regional administrative arrangement that is being followed by the present government and which has subsequently been enshrined in the constitution as well. According to the manifesto, the basis for these modifications would be the observance of the wishes, interests and desires of the people.  The criteria, thus, would be the wishes of the people, the strength or otherwise of historical and cultural commonalties, language, settlement patterns and geography, etc.

The manifesto also makes clear that the leaders of the coalition will definitely go on to scrap the constitutional provision that makes land, both urban and rural, the property of the state as they have promised repeatedly to do.

CUD's proposals also include changing the voting system to proportional representation, stripping the power to interpret the constitution off the House of the Federation, limiting the tenures of the prime minister to two terms, amending the various constitutional stipulations to ensure the independence of the judiciary, and so on. CUD also promised the scrapping of laws proclaimed in violation of the supremacy of the constitution (Article 9).

The coalition's Election Manifesto deals also extensively with the various reform programmes in the social, economic, political and other spheres.