Although successful in dismantling the unitary state system of Ethiopia, EPRDF is still struggling for a clear vision around which Ethiopian state building and its diverse people can rally. Dominating the political space for more than two decades, EPRDF has been striving to build a new federal developmental State. Ethiopia, under EPRDF, has made unprecedented developmental delivery and impressive strides in the economic front and in peace and security, bestowing EPRDF performance legitimacy. In spite of all the country’s progress, extreme poverty, corruption and deficit in popular legitimacy remain Ethiopia’s main challenges to its economic development, democratic governance, peace and security. Thus, EPRDF desperately needs new sources of popular legitimacy in addition to performance legitimacy through delivery. Performance legitimacy without popular legitimacy is hard to sustain. Then what is holding back EPRDF from achieving popular legitimacy?
The main challenge to legitimacy based on delivery is maintaining the pace of transformation to unremittingly scaling up delivery in order to satisfy an overwhelming majority. At the same time, governance based performance legitimacy requires continuous calibration of delivery with democracy to gain sufficient popular legitimacy. Additional challenge to this calibration emanates from lack of cohesive party machinery and competence of highest level to read the preference of the population. Despite the existence of comprehensive legislative and institutional frameworks, corruption remains a formidable challenge to EPRDF as an invasive political ill that has already undermined Ethiopia’s development. Infrastructure development, land administration, procurement, judiciary, enforcement and other organs of the State and government are the most corruption infested. The ruling party EPRDF has identified rent seeking in the form of nepotism and corruption as a grave internal challenge to the party and the Ethiopian political system. However, given that constitutional accountability is weak under the dominant party, and the only existing accountability is intraparty mechanisms, EPRDF may not be able to combat corruption effectively unless it wages first a cutthroat struggle within EPRDF and then within the society. For now, clean political personalities and forces are intimidated, and in some instances, persecuted by the corrupt elements in the society. An empowered democratic citizenry that totally reject corruption in norm and practice is vital to increasing the accountability of officials through constitutional democratic institutions.