Ethiopian Ruling Party to Decide Meles’s Successor After Funeral

By William Davison
Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s ruling party will meet to select the next prime minister following the funeral of Meles Zenawi, who died on Aug. 20 after leading the country for 21 years.
Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn became acting prime minister after Meles died from an infection following an unspecified illness. His funeral is on Sept. 2.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s council will probably “legally endorse” Hailemariam as party chairman next month and then recommend him to parliament as prime minister, Seikoture Getachew, the foreign relations head of the party’s secretariat, said in an interview on Aug. 26 in the capital, Addis Ababa. The meeting date hasn’t been scheduled yet, he said.
Parliament, which has only one opposition representative out of 547 lawmakers, is on “stand-by” to swear in Meles’s successor after the nation finishes mourning, Communication Minister Bereket Simon said last week.
Ethiopia’s constitution does not cater for succession in the event of the death, incapacitation or instability of the prime minister, said Yohannes Woldegebriel, a lawyer who has written on the subject.
The deputy prime minister is empowered to act on behalf of the prime minister in his absence and is accountable to the prime minister, according to the country’s 1994 constitution.
“Now that the prime minister is dead, the deputy prime minister can’t be accountable to the prime minister,” Yohannes said in an interview in the capital on Aug. 26.
The constitution makes no reference to an acting prime minister. While the constitutional question is “debatable,” in practice “there is no gap as the deputy prime minister is working in the position of the prime minister,” the EPRDF’s Seikoture said.

William Davison
Bloomberg News
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia