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Ethiopia’s Ruling Coalition Elects New Chairman

The Central Committee of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of parties which dominates Ethiopia’s parliament, has elected Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn as its chairman.

Given the overwhelming dominance of EPRDF within Ethiopia’s parliament–it controls all but two of the 547 seats– Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to be sworn in as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.

Hailemariam Desalegn, who was hand-picked by the late Meles Zenawi to be his deputy, had been the acting Prime Minister since Meles Zenawi died on August 20 in a Belgium hospital.

EPRDF is a coalition of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF); the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO); the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the South Ethiopian People’s Democratic Front (SEPDF).  It has held power in Ethiopia since it swept the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam out of power in May 1991.

The Central Committee of the EPRDF has 180 members and 50 observers, who are mainly veterans of the revolution to overthrow Mengistu Hailemariam.  Its meeting was convened on Friday and concluded on Saturday.

The EPRDF also elected Mr. Demeke Mokonnen as the deputy chairman.  If, as seems likely, the chairman becomes the prime minister, Mr. Demeke Mokonnen will be the deputy prime minister as well as the Foreign Minister.

This is the first time in 21 years when neither the chairman nor the deputy are from the TPLF, which is considered to be the core of the EPRDF.  The chairman is from SEPDF and the vice chairman is from ANDM.

Significantly, the new chairman is not a veteran of the revolution.  Born in 1965, Hailemariam Desalegn has a engineering degree from the University of Addis Ababa in 1988 and a masters degree in engineering from a university in Finland.

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