Ethiopia: Haile Gebrselassie turns to politics

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Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian distance runner considered one of the greatest of all time, has announced that he plans to stand for parliament with the aim of winning a seat in the country’s 2015 election.

Rumours had been circulating for a long time that the 40-year old 10,000 m runner, who won Olympic golds in Atlanta and Sydney and with 27 world records, was leaving athletics, and he confirmed this on his Twitter account.

“A lot of messages in the news about me going into politics. Yes, I want to be in the parliament in 2015 to help my country to move forward,” he tweeted.

Gebrselassie is regarded as a national icon by many Ethiopians, but he has yet to state under which party’s banner he will contest the election.

Asked about his political ambitions by the Guardian (London) in 2002, he said that the most important thing for his country was the eradication of poverty.

Ethiopia’s parliament is dominated by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). It has only one opposition MP.

The government has been accused by Human Rights Watch of leading a repressive regime, which uses its anti-terrorism law as a pretext to imprison opposition activists and journalists.

Gebrselassie announced his retirement in 2010 after suffering a knee injury in the New York City marathon. But he soon reversed his decision and went on to compete in further races.

He is known for his distinctive running style, with the right arm swinging back and forth while the left arm remains static and cocked, which he says he developed while running to school carrying his books.

In April 2013, he won his third consecutive Vienna half marathon.

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