Federation among unequals. A country study of constitutional asymmetry in Ethiopia
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Although some level of political asymmetry is unavoidable in any federal arrangement, the problem of an Ethiopian federation affected by glaring political asymmetry remains unexplored. The aim of this chapter is to examine whether the political asymmetry that characterizes the federation is translated into constitutional asymmetry and affects the working of the federation. It seeks to unravel the repercussion of the unbalanced nature of the existing ethnically defined states on the federation as a whole, ramifications that, this chapter argues, have not fully come into effect because of a ruling party that has effectively equalized the unequal subnational entities. This, the paper concludes, is set to change as competitive politics replaces the political space that is currently characterized by ‘one-party dominance’, or even when the balance of power within the ruling party goes under major reconfiguration, as seems to be happening these days. The chapter commences the discussion by providing a historical background of the federal system. It then moves to identify the political asymmetrical features of the Ethiopian federal system. The chapter further detects constitutional asymmetry and investigates the potential and actual implications of the asymmetry for the functioning of the federation. This is followed by a discussion that explores the link between multinationalism and the asymmetry that characterizes the Ethiopian federation. The chapter then explores whether the federal system has put in place mechanisms that can help to moderate the effects of the asymmetry before it concludes the discussion.