Political parties are particularly important for the operation of federal systems. The way parties are organised might reinforce or corrode the federal division of power. Ethiopian federalism is a case in point: although the Constitution gives wide rights of autonomy for regional states, centralised party rule has undermined the regional states’ ability to determine their own affairs. In this paper, the Sidama’s quest for regional statehood is discussed. This quest has been suppressed until recently, when a split in the ruling party led to political liberalisation and a new party leadership. The change made it possible for the Sidama to conduct a referendum for a separate regional state in 2019, resulting in a new Sidama state in 2020. A new national centre-oriented Prosperity Party may however lead to a recentralisation, showing how federal structures are vulnerable to changes in national political power.
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