Ethiopia: Term Limit to the Premiership - Bold Step Towards Democracy

Ethiopia: Term Limit to the Premiership - Bold Step Towards Democracy

In one of his recent tours in the country, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed made a pledge that he would work to introduce term limits to Prime Minister's office. The Premier expressed his will and commitment to limit the tenure of office to two terms.

It is to be recalled that some six years ago, the ruling party Ethiopians People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) reached decision to limit the term of office for its chairman, and hence the Prime Minister. What makes Dr. Abiy's pledge different is that the amendment will be incorporated in the Constitution, perhaps in the foreseeable future.

So far, Ethiopia's Constitution permits the Head of Government to remain in power for unlimited term of office, and Prime Minister's pledge is a break away from the long held tradition.

"Any leader of the country will not serve in office beyond two terms following the amendment on the Constitution" Prime Minister Abiy said. "Seizing power for lifetime comes to an end in Ethiopia."

True, the tendency of leaders and officials to stay in power for too long, and absence of legal term limits have been the major stumbling blocks for smooth transition of power in many African countries.

It has almost become a norm in most African countries that Heads of State and Government cling to power irrespective of their successes or failures in their works. At times, it seems unrealistic even to think of witnessing transfer of power between individuals within the same political party.

On the contrary, in many of the world's major and emerging democracies, it is normal to put political term limits. To mention a notable case, the Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution sets a limit on the number of times a person is eligible for election to the office of President.

When former US president Barack Obama visited Ethiopia back in 2015, he delivered a historic speech at the headquarters of the African Union, where he put stress on the importance of term limits in Africa as an essential component of democracy.

"I have to also say that Africa's democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end," he said at the time.

Political office term limits are in fact central to democracy. Term limits would also serve as a vital check against the accumulation of too much power in the hands of one person or authority.

Constitutional term limits would make it possible to make leaders accountable, put a stop to corruption, give opportunity for political remedy, and above all create smooth platform for new ideas to get a chance and thrive.

Unfortunately, there have also been cases in some African countries and beyond where power hungry individuals opt to cling on power for long. Some even amended the legal term limits restriction to extend their stay in power.

Yet, the value of term limits and abiding by such laws could not be undermined. Many countries with term limit laws have passed through several ups and downs to finally make the law a strongly held tradition.

It is an exciting thing for Ethiopia that Prime Minister Abiy himself initiated the issue term limits. He did not set a specific date for the amendment of the constitution or give any detail on the issue. But it is true that the pledge deserves applaud as its materialization would be a bold move towards building a democratic system. In fact, the premiership is a position of civil service. And when one fails to deliver or when his/her time is over, he/she has to step aside!


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Publish date : 2018-05-03 15:31:30
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