The Government in Ethiopia

In scholarly circles, a government is an agent of state mandated to carry out the operations of the said state. This function is carried out by the three traditional arms, the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The degree of influence of each of these arms is largely dependent on the political system. For a dictatorship for instance, the head of government is the overall person. He directs all affairs of government discretionarily thus spelling the terms and conditions in the state. In a democracy the situation is a bit different as the people are assumed to be in charge through elected representations.

A presidential democracy is a political system where the president has real executive powers and is elected by the people for a definite span in office. He is the head of government as is in the United States and South Africa and the cabinet operates under his direction. Government operations are usually carried out in the name of the president. A parliamentary democracy like the system in the United Kingdom and Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government is different from the head of state. In the United Kingdom the head of government is the prime minister who is appointed by the Monarch.

The appointee is usually the leader of the party with a majority after parliamentary elections. In this case, the head of government is the prime minister or the chancellor as the case applies in Germany. Ethiopia falls in this category. A mixed system is found in France and Kenya where there is an executive president as head of state with an executive Prime Minister heading the government. In the French Model the president is elected and sworn into office. He then appoints a prime minister who will nominate a cabinet to be appointed by the president.

The prime minister is answerable to parliament together with his cabinet. In case a vote of no confidence is passed against him, he presents the resignation of his government to the president who would then seek for a replacement. Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic with a two tier parliament. The 1994 constitution provides for a clear separation of powers between the three arms of government. However, Prime Minister Zenawi has usurped much power and he controls the three arms. His cronies are the senior officers in the judiciary. This leaves the whole system operate at the mercy of the prime minister

The Democracy Index 2006 by the Economist Intelligence Unit has labeled Ethiopia a hybrid regime characterized by a mockery of democracy and authoritarianism. The unit rates Ethiopia at 106 out of a possible of 167 (Economic Intelligence Unit). The legislature Parliament consists of a bicameral structure consisting of the House of Federation and the House of People’s Representatives. The House of Federation is the upper chamber with 108 seats filled by members chosen by the different state assemblies for a five year term. The primary responsibility of this House is the interpretation of the constitution and federal-regional issues.

The lower House on the other hand deals with the passage of legislations. It has 547 seats whose occupants are elected directly by universal suffrage – eligibility is 18 years – from single member districts. Term of service is five years renewable. Ethiopians went into an election in June 1994 to elect an assembly of 547 members. This assembly was to come up with a constitution making various federal provisions in the structure of government. Elections were conducted the following year in May and June in which opposition parties boycotted.

The incumbent leadership under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front won with a comfortable majority. The Executive The head of state is elected by the House of People’s Representatives for a term of six years renewable once. The last presidential elections were held in October 2001 in which President Girma Woldegiorgis won with a landslide of 79% of the House. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was first elected in 1995 August. The constitution provides that the Prime Minister nominates ministers to be approved by the House of People’s Representatives.

The Prime Minister is not directly elected but is designated by the party with the majority after legislative elections. The Prime Minister is the executive head of government Judiciary The highest judicial organ is the federal Supreme Court whose President and Vice President are nominated by the Prime Minister. They are then appointed by the People’s Representatives’ House by confirmation. Other members of the Federal Court are nominated by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Federal Judicial Administrative Council and appointed by the House of People’s Representatives by confirmation.

The constitution provides for the independence of these three arms of government The civil rights The Ethiopian government has been known under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to trample on the rights of the civil society. The media is strictly controlled by the government and the dominant media are state-owned which presents what the government decides. Private press work cautiously not to slip on the palm of the government (Freedom House 2007).