Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) frequents...

Feb 29 , 2020

Lately, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), chairman of the incumbent Prosperity Party (PP), frequents several towns in the Southern Regional State during his visits more often than any others. A few months ahead of the national election, his campaign strategists appear to be worried that the political fragmentation in the region presents significant challenges to their electoral bid, gossip observed.

It is not lost on the Prosperitians that the structured and formidable challenge comes from the main opposition party, the TPLF, up in the north, claims gossip. In their electoral calculus, they hope for few, if any, seats in the regional council of Tigray Regional State or from the 38 seats the region has in the federal parliament, says gossip. A political force or coalition is required to win no less than 275 seats to form a government at the federal level, although the ability to claim legislative hold in parliament requires over 300 seats.

The Prosperitians hope to bag a significant number of these seats from the Amhara Regional State, where they see little political challenge both to the regional council and the federal parliament, claims gossip. Ironically, they are not as upbeat about the regional state where their Chairman's constituency is located, according to gossip. They seem to be content should they win half of the 179 seats the Oromia Regional State brings to the federal stage, claims gossip.

The next largest political bloc following the Oromia and Amhara regional states is found in the Southern region. With 123 seats in the federal parliament, and without having the formidable presence of an opposition worthy of appeal across the many constituencies, Prosperitians are confident they have a swing advantage there, according to gossip.

Thus, the roadblock between them and their electoral triumph is the endless quest by no less than 11 of the 14 zones in the regional state in taking a cue from those in the Sidama Zone, claims gossip. Only recently, voters in Sidama Zone voted in droves in favour of state status, joining the federation as the 10th regional state.

The surprise in all this? A recently simulated budget for the regional state showed an increase of close to 400pc in federal subsidy to the Sidama than it would have received while a zone, gossip disclosed. Leaders and political activists in other zones of the region pay close attention to such delicate matters of sharing resources, says gossip.

The most aggressive and outspoken activists are in the Welayita Zone; they put up the pressure on Birtukan Mideksa, chief of the national electoral board, to honour the constitutional order by holding a referendum in the zone as required under the Constitution.

Abiy and company feel they need to sort this out before it blows up in their face before the election, claims gossip. They seem to grasp the potential that collateral damage from deadly conflicts with law enforcement agencies may cause to their electoral bid, according to gossip.

Besides Abiy's frequent visits, a task force established under his office has authored a document showing what can be a pathway to untangle the complexities, says gossip. While members in this task force see neither the desirability nor the possibility of granting state status to all the zones, they seem to realise that it is impossible to ignore the quest for political leadership that they thought a couple of years ago were resolved, claims gossip.

Close to 80 selected numbers of people from various zones in the region have had a series of meetings in four towns - Hawassa, Jimma, Holeta and Shahemenie - to digest the tabled proposal, gossip disclosed. The document proposes the entire region can be restructured into four regional states, having political, economic and cultural centres,  revealed gossip. For the political centre, they consider one from Hawassa, Sodo, Hossana, and Bonga, while the economic centre hopes to pick one from Dila, Selamb`er, and Welqitie. The task force proposed either Dawro, Arba Minch, Mizan Tepi, Duramie or Hawassa to serve as a cultural centre, gossip disclosed.

Nonetheless, winning consensus among the elites of the many zones within the short time ahead before the national elections remains a daunting task for the Prosperitians, gossip anticipates. Compelling them to concede on decisions about which zones should be jumbled together and about selecting the centres will no doubt continue to be battleground issues, claims gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 29,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1035]

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