Despite two major achievements—the compromise reached on proportional representation and the decision to amend the charter to strike out two controversial articles--the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) is at a critical impasse which may lead to its disintegration, according to our sources. The cause appears to be over the alliance's inability to reach a decision on who should lead its executive office.
The EDA is an umbrella organization that groups most of Eritrea's opposition groups.
The EDA's original compromise solution had been to grant 1 vote to the "small" organizations and 2 votes to the "large" organizations. From the outset, this decision was controversial as there was no way to objectively determine size of organizations. Moreover, the issue of what happens to organizations when they merge—do they retain the sum total of their votes, or are they treated as one entity and thus having 2 votes—was not resolved.
In its congress, the EDA came up with a new compromise: the small organizations would get 2 votes, the large organizations would get 4, and merged organizations would retain the sum total of their component groups. Using this formula, the Salvation Front was designated 12 votes, EFDM and Alnahda were granted two votes each, and the rest were designated 4 votes each. http://www.awate.com/portal/content/view/4469/3/
On Monday, February 19th, the issue of representation was raised once again—particularly referencing the Salvation Front. Some organizations, including the ELF, Al-Islah, Al-Khalas, Saghem and DMLEK insisted that the Salvation should be assigned votes commensurate to that of one organization. A compromise proposal put forth by the ELF-RC was not accepted and the impasse resulted in the postponement of the meeting.
The next day, the Salvation Front surprised the congress by indicating that it would voluntarily accept the number of votes designated for one organization.
The tone of the congress began to sour when Mr. Hussein Khelifa (vice chairman of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF)) who has led the EDA since its foundation adamantly refused to stand down and indicated that he would be standing as a contender. Mr. Hussein Khelifa indicated that he is the choice of some of the member organizations and that unless they told him that they wish for him to withdraw, he had no indication of doing so.
On Friday, February 23rd, Mr. Mohammed Nur Ahmed, a member of the central council of the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP) who had also been nominated for the post of chairman, suggested that both he and Hussein Khelifa should withdraw their nomination to provide opportunity to a new face. This proposal was rejected by Hussein Khelifa. It wasn't until Saturday that Hussein Khelifa accepted this proposal, bringing about a newer crisis.
The Emergence of The Blocs
During the deliberations to amend the charter, amend the issue of proportional representation and, finally, electing the next chairman, it appears that coalitions have emerged voting as blocs.
Coalition One: The first coalition includes the Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council (ELF-RC), the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) ENSF is the name of the organization that resulted from the merger of the Eritrean Liberation Front-National Congress (ELF-NC), Sedege and Eritrean People's Movement (EPM).
Coalition two: A second coalition includes the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice & Development (Alkalas), Eritrean Islamic Islah Movement (Islah), Eritrean Democratic Front (Sagem), Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK), and the Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement (EFDM.)
So far, the Red Sea Afar and the Alnahda movement appear to be indifferent to the maneuvering of the two coalitions.
Following the withdrawal of Hussein Khelifa of the ELF, the two blocs then agreed to form a committee for consultation and present candidates. Coalition One then suggested one name from their bloc, Mr. Abdella Adem of the ENSF and another from the other bloc, Mr. Jaafer Asad (who, along with Hussein Khelifa, is the co-vice chair of the ELF) while coalition two nominated Mr. Bashir Ishaq of the EFDM to chair the alliance.
Mr. Beshir Ishaq’s nomination was rejected by block one and Mr. Jaafer Asad’s nomination was rejected by his own organization, the ELF, which worried that the de-facto demotion of Hussein and the promotion of Jaafer Assad would telegraph a wrong message to their own party members. The candidacy of Abdella Adem was also rejected outright by block two.
The meeting was adjourned once again.
When they meet tomorrow, it is likely that they will nominate Saghem's Mr. Tewelde Gebreselase whose candidacy is far from certain to be accepted. As of the date this news is being published, it appears that the two blocs have differences which are irreconcilable and the only thing holding the alliance together is fear that its breaking apart may demoralize the opposition at large.
[Awate Editor: we are using the phrases "coalition one" and "coalition two" for shorthand purposes only, and in lieu of repeating the names of all the organizations voting as a bloc. There are no such self-identified group names within the EDA.]