Politics of Eritrea

Politics of Eritrea takes place in a framework of a single-party presidential republic, whereby the President of Eritrea is both head of state and head of government and a single-party state, led by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice. The National Assembly of 150 seats, formed in 1993 shortly after independence, elected the current president, Isaias Afewerki.

Following a successful referendum on independence for the Autonomous Region of Eritrea on 1993-04-23-1993-04-25, on 1993-05-19, the Provisional Government of Eritrea (PGE) issued a Proclamation regarding the reorganization of the Government. It declared that during a four-year transition period, and sooner if possible, it would draft and ratify a constitution, prepare a law on political parties, prepare a press law, and carry out elections for a constitutional government. In March 1994, the PGE created a constitutional commission charged with drafting a constitution flexible enough to meet the current needs of a population suffering from 30 years of civil war as well as those of the future, when stability and prosperity change the political landscape.

Commission members have traveled throughout the country and to Eritrean communities abroad holding meetings to explain constitutional options to the people and to solicit their input. A new constitution was promulgated in 1997 but has not yet been implemented, and general elections have been postponed. A National Assembly, composed entirely of the PFDJ, was established as a transitional legislature; elections have been postponed indefinitely following the start of the border conflict with Ethiopia.

Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to domestic and international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its alleged record of religious persecution.

At independence, the government faced formidable challenges. Beginning with a nascent judicial system, and an education system in shambles, it has attempted to build the institutions of government from scratch, with varying success. Since then, the impact of the border war with Ethiopia, and continued army mobilisation, has contributed to the lack of a skilled workforce. The present government includes legislative, executive, and judicial bodies.

Executive branch

President
Isaias Afewerki
PFDJ
24 May 1993The president nominates individuals to head the various ministries, authorities, commissions, and offices, and the National Assembly ratifies those nominations. The cabinet is the country's executive branch. It is composed of 18 ministries and chaired by the president. It implements policies, regulations, and laws and is, in theory, accountable to the National Assembly.

The Ministries are:
* Agriculture
* Defence
* Education
* Energy & Mines
* Finance
* Fisheries & Maritime Resources
* Foreign Affairs
* Health
* Information
* Justice
* Labour & Human Welfare
* Land, Water, & Environment
* Local Government
* National Development
* Public Works
* Tourism
* Trade & Industry
* Transport & Communications

Legislative branch

The legislature, the National Assembly appointed in 1993, includes 75 members of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and 75 additional 'popularly elected' members. The National Assembly is the highest legal power in the government until the establishment of a democratic, constitutional government.Within the Eritrean Constitution the Legislature would remain the strongest arm of the government. The legislature sets the internal and external policies of the government, regulates implementation of those policies, approves the budget, and elects the president of the country. Its membership has not been renewed through national elections.

Lower Regional Assemblies are also in each of Eritrea's six zones. These Assemblies are responsible setting a local agenda in the case that they are not overruled by the National Assembly. These Regional Assemblies are popularly elected within each region. Unlike the National Assembly however, the Regional administrator is not selected by the Regional Assembly.

Political parties and elections

Eritrea is a single-party state, run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). No other political groups are allowed to organize, although the non-implemented Constitution of 1997 provided for the existence of multi-party politics.

Eritrean National elections were set for 1997 and then postponed until 2001, it was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea's land was under occupation that elections would be postponed until the resolution of the conflict with Ethiopia. Local elections have continued in Eritrea. The most recent round of local government elections were held in May 2003. On further elections, the President's Chief of Staff, Yemane Ghebremeskel said, [cite web
url = http://www.shaebia.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=9&num=2618&printer=1
title = Interview of Mr. Yemane Gebremeskel, Director of the Office of the President of Eritrea
publisher = PFDJ
date = 2004-04-01
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] cquote|The electoral commission is handling these elections this time round so that may be the new element in this process. The national assembly has also mandated the electoral commission to set the date for national elections, so whenever the electoral commission sets the date there will be national elections. It’s not dependent on regional elections, although that might be a very helpful process.Multipartyism, in general principle yes, it is there but the law on political parties has to be approved by the national assembly. It was not approved the last time. The view from the beginning was that you don’t necessarily need a party law to hold national elections. You can have national elections and the party law can be adopted at any time. So in terms of commitment it’s very clear, in terms of the process it has its own pace, its own characteristics.

Illegal opposition

*Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ)
*Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), Abdullah Muhammed
*Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council (ELF-RC), Ahmed Nasser
*Eritrean Liberation Front-United Organization (ELF-UO), Mohammed Said Nawd
*Eritrean People´s Democratic Front (EPDF), Tewelde Ghebreselassie

Regional issues

Eritrea has had rough relations with most of its neighbors in the 1990s and initiated both small scale and large scale battles against Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia. Eritrea invaded the hanish islands of Yemen, Sudan blamed Eritrea for attacks in Eastern Sudan, UN commission accused Eritrea for invading Ethiopia and Djibouti officials accused Eritrea for shelling towns in Djibouti in 1996. [ [http://www.foreignaffairs.org/sponsored_sections/country_focus/yemen/yemen_report_print.pdf Eritrea invades Yemen's hanish islands] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/335911.stm Eritrea attacks Sudan] ] [ [http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Hornet/irin_111299b.html Djibouti blames Eritrea for shelling Djibouti town] ] [ [http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1151 UN accuses Eritrea for Invading Ethiopia] ] Since then, Eritrea has made efforts to solve relations with Sudan and Djibouti, though relations with Yemen and Ethiopia remain sour. Eritrea abandoned the regional bloc IGAD which is membered by the four nations and Kenya.

Judicial branch

The judiciary operates independently of both the legislative and executive bodies, with a court system that extends from the village through to the regional and national levels. The structure has three tiers, the local "community courts", the regional courts and the national High Court.

Village judges are elected, though typically they are the village elders. A community court consists of three judges/magistrates. "There are a total of 683 community courts across the country with the number of magistrates totaling to 2,049, i.e. 55 in the Central Region, 213 in the South, 178 in Gash-Barka, 109 in Anseba, 98 in the Northern and 30 in the Southern Red Sea regions." [cite web|url = http://www.shaebia.org/artman/publish/article_4206.html | title = Community Courts: Helping Citizens Settle Disputes out of Courts | publisher = PFDJ | date = 2005-11-23 | accessdate = 2006-06-08] The community courts work on the basis of the area, the local rules and customs. If a dispute cannot be resolved in the community courts it can be appealed to the next level of judicial administration, the regional courts.

Administrative Divisions

"Main articles: Regions of Eritrea, Districts of Eritrea"

Eritrea is divided into 6 regions (or "zoba"s) and subdivided into approximately 55 districts or sub-zobas. The regions are based on the hydrological properties of area. This has the dual effect of providing each administration with ample control over its agricultural capacity and eliminating historical intra-regional conflicts.

The regions are included followed by the Sub-region:

Foreign relations

External issues include an undemarcated border with the Sudan, a war with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996, and a recent border conflict with Ethiopia.

The undemarcated border with Sudan poses a problem for Eritrean external relations [cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3400575.stm
title = Eritrea-Sudan relations plummet
publisher = BBC
date = 2004-01-15
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] . After a high-level delegation to the Sudan from the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs ties are being normalized. While normalization of ties continues, Eritrea has been recognized as a broker for peace between the separate factions of the Sudanese civil war. "It is known that Eritrea played a role in bringing about the peace agreement [between the Southern Sudanese and Government] ," [cite web
url = http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=12393
title = Turabi terms USA "world’s ignoramuses", fears Sudan’s partition
publisher = Sudan Tribune
date = 2005-11-04
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] while the Sudanese Government and Eastern Front rebels have requested Eritrea to mediate peace talks [cite web
url = http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=15117
title = Sudan demands Eritrean mediation with eastern Sudan rebels
publisher = Sudan Tribune
date = 2006-04-18
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] .

A dispute with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996 resulted in a brief war. As part of an agreement to cease hostilities the two nations agreed to refer the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the the Hague. At the conclusion of the proceedings, both nations acquiesced to the decision. Since 1996 both governments have remained wary of one another but relations are relatively normal [cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/192667.stm
title = Flights back on between Yemen and Eritrea
publisher = BBC
date = 1998-12-13
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] .

The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue facing Eritrea. This led to a long and bloody border war between 1998 and 2000. As a result, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is occupying a 25 km by 900 km area on the border to help stabilize the region [cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4041073.stm
title = Q&A: Horn's bitter border war
publisher = BBC
date = 2005-12-07
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] . Disagreements following the war have resulted in stalemate punctuated by periods of elevated tension and renewed threats of warcite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3457957.stm
title = Horn tensions trigger UN warning
publisher = BBC
date = 2004-02-04
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] [cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4400580.stm
title = Army build-up near Horn frontier
publisher = BBC
date = 2005-11-02
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4555892.stm
title = Horn border tense before deadline
publisher = BBC
date = 2005-12-23
accessdate = 2006-06-07
] . Central to the continuation of the stalemate is Ethiopia's failure to abide by the border delimitation ruling and reneging on its commitment to demarcation. The stalemate has led the President of Eritrea to urge the UN to take action on Ethiopia. This request is outlined in the penned by the President to the United Nations Security Council. The situation is further escalated by the continued effort of the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders in supporting each other's opposition. Somalia is also at risk of being drawn into a proxy war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, with Eritrea providing arms and ammunition to 'Islamic militias' based in Mogadishu, and Ethiopia backing the Transitional Federal Government, currently based in Baidoa. In August 2006, the BBC and other sources reported that Ethiopian army troops had entered Somalia.

References


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