5 September 2012 [ESAT]
Insider sources from within the TPLF power hierarchy inform ESAT that Azeb Mesfin, the widow of the late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi, is aggressively lobbying for the Chairwoman position of TPLF left by her husband. The source said if she gets the chairperson position of TPLF it would be very easy for her grab at least the vice chairperson position of the governing coalition—EPRDF—thereby putting her closer to the top job in the land.
Azeb is the only woman in the 36 member EPRDF executive committee and ascendance in this powerful committee back in September of 2003 when long time respected politicians in the likes of Arkebe Ouqubai were purged was a subject of heated discussion among political observers and party insiders.
According to the source, Azeb has been diligently using the recent prolonged mourning of the Prime Minister’s death to personally plead with long time party veterans. She was seen talking to former Foreign Minister and current Ethiopian ambassador to China Seyoum Mesfin, party heavyweights Abay Tsehaye, Arkebe Ouqubai, Tefera Walwa and Addisu Legesse.
During the formal funeral ceremony Azeb pushed aside an official speech prepared by another TPLF veteran—Netsanet Asfaw—and went on unscripted. In what observers said was largely a political speech, Azeb demanded conviction from party members to what she called “Meles’ way“. She said the only way forward should be to stick to the ‘unadulterated’ policies and strategies Meles has put forward and the party must follow them with even greater conviction.
Many of the executive committee members from TPLF are slated for retirement at the end of 2015 under party approved succession plan. Azeb has only had a year in the committee and given her age many believe she would come out a top contender and perhaps the only contender for the chairwoman position of TPLF. However she has to jostle with candidates from the growingly assertive OPDO and ANDM candidates for the vice chairwomanship position of the government coalition—EPRDF– she is said to be spiritedly lobbying for.
Even though the official government spokesperson has declared that Hailemariam Desalegn will be taking over the Prime Ministerial position until the 2015 election, observers say the party is vacillating on swearing him in. The executive council had met yesterday but didn’t agree on new leaders of the party. Instead the leadership selection is put off until next week when the council will be meeting for its annual regular meeting.
Though in the first two days since the prime minister’s death has officially been announced, Hailemariam was officially addressed as Acting Prime minister that has changed in the later days. Government media are addressing him as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister since the more than a week long ago.
The formal swearing in ceremony program had to be put off after it was announced on government media. The government spokesperson, Bereket Simon, has downplayed the need to swear Hailemariam urgently. He rejected the need to call parliament for the swearing in. Instead he said parliamentarians need to be left alone to grieve their deceased Prime Minister.
Hailemariam is constitutionally warranted to take over the Prime Ministerial post unless otherwise he is sidelined as some are suspecting is happening now. If Hailemariam is to be promoted to the Chairmanship position, the deputy chairman position he has been holding will be up for grabs. Azeb seem committed to take up this position.
EPRDF will hold its 180 member council meeting in the first week of Ethiopian New Year which will be within a week time. Political observers are keenly awaiting what comes out of that meeting.