Parliament accepts Election Board’s indirect request to postpone Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, and local elections
July 31, 2019
The Ethiopian parliament called from recess for an “emergency meeting” on Wednesday approved Ethiopian National Elections Board written request to postpone Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa City elections.
According to a report by state-affiliated broadcaster, Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), the parliament approved it unanimously.
The parliament’s emergency meeting was called a day after the Ethiopian government claimed a new world record in tree planting which reportedly involved over 23 million people across the country.
Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa City administration elections were supposed to take place in 2018, and this postponement is for the second time. It was postponed due to the situation in the country at the time – widespread protest across the country against TPLF dominated ruling coalition, EPRDF.
Ethiopian National Elections Board letter to the parliament stated Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, and local elections were among agenda items during the Board’s meeting on July 8, 2019.
And the board reached an agreement, says the letter, that it can not recruit and train elections officers (poll workers -deputy returning officers and information officers, poll clerk, registration officers, and supervisors- among others), and implement reforms in a short time.
The letter continued to state that the Board decided to disclose the situation to the parliament (pointing out that it can not administer election for the two cities and at local levels as scheduled) so that the parliament could make a decision on it. And the parliament’s decision is “unanimous postpone it” vote.
Training poll workers could take up to four days, and the security situation in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, at this time, does not seem to pose a problem if the election board was to conduct the election as scheduled.
What does the parliament’s decision mean for the administrations in both cities? It means that they will continue to work until the election is arranged – which will happen alongside the national election, which is scheduled for 2020.
The parliament decision did not come as a surprise to politicized Ethiopians in social media who are increasingly skeptical of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.
It is official that Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) whose chairman is Abiy Ahmed claims ownership right over Addis Ababa – which more than five million residents of the city and some of the partner in the ruling coalition, for example, ADP, reject.
Addis Ababa City is currently under appointed Mayor, Takele Uma, whom Abiy Ahmed picked from the ethnic party he leads – ODP.
Although the appointee has been diligently working a public relations work to portray himself as a man who believes in Addis Ababa as a city for all Ethiopians, his political affiliation and background as a radical Oromo Ethno-nationalist cast doubt if he has some hidden agenda.
Former prisoner of conscience and award-winning journalist, Eskinder Nega, organized a movement calling for an elected Addis Ababa City administration for several months now but the response from Abiy Ahmed’s administration and his ODP party, which is now dominating the ruling coalition, is that of repression.
Many members of the movement, it calls itself Baladera Council, are arrested – some of them with trumped-up charges of terrorism. Elias Gebru, a journalist and a member of Baladera leadership, for example, is thrown to prison in connection with alleged coup d’etat on June 22 but reports emerging on social media indicated that he is not so far interrogated about the “coup. “
The condition of Dire Dawa city is not better either. The Mayor that was appointed only six months ago has now resigned. Behind the political problems in the administration is a controversy between ethnic Somali and ethnic Oromo, among other issues.
Residents of Dire Dawa from other ethnic system are under-represented in the city administration due to the so-called “quota system” which allocates the larger share the administration to ethnic Oromo and ethnic Somali.
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