Despite the impacts of COVID 19 pandemic, Tigray regional state wants Ethiopia’s Federal election as scheduled before
By Bernabas Shiferaw
April 28, 2020
The Head of the Communications Bureau of Tigray Regional Government, Mrs. Lia Kasa, has told Deutsche Welle (DW) that the regional government is against the proposed postponement of the national election due to the delays caused by COVID-19.
Mrs. Lia said that although the regional government understands that COVID-19 will pose a significant challenge to holding a timely election, it must be held nonetheless as the regional government “does not want an illegal government leading the country.” She also mentioned, as an example, the 2000 election which was held in the midst of the Ethio-Eritrean war. “We held an election then, under very difficult conditions,” said Mrs. Lia, “because we believed that we did not have the right to take away the people’s authority from them.”
The election was to be held in August, at the end of the current Ethiopian year, 2012, despite objections from many opposition parties who were of the opinion that the Country could not afford an election with the current fever pitch of political pressure and security issues in many parts of the country. Yet, the government decided to have the election held in the current Ethiopian year, which ends at the beginning of September as the five year lifetime allocated to the parliament by the constitution will expire in early October. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) then chose to hold the elections at the latest possible time – in August.
With the appearance of COVID-19 in February and the consequent imposition of restrictions by the government on travel and other activities, the board declared that it will not be able to execute the election as per the schedule. It then announced two possible scenario cases in which it might be able to execute the election in December or in February of 2021, leaving the decision to the parliament (House of People’s Representatives).
The decision now lies in the hands of the governing party, the Prosperity Party, which controls the whole parliament save 35 seats by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to be the founder and leading member of the EPRDF, the coalition that melted into the now Prosperity Party. The Tigray National Regional government is entirely controlled by the TPLF, which has been engaged in a power struggle with the Federal Government for the last two years since the coming to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is now leading the Prosperity Party.
It has been heard from some sources that having considered several options, the executive committee of the Prosperity party has decided to seek an extension of the lifetime of the current government by having the House of Federation, which it also controls, interpret the constitution, which does not say explicitly whether or not the government has the power to postpone national elections.
Seemingly referring to this decision by the Prosperity executive committee, Mrs. Lia said “We know that decisions might be made which will affect the political dynamics of the country negatively.” She also accused the federal government of not monitoring the activities of the NEBE closely.
The communications officer at the NEBE, Ms. Soliana Shimeles has said that although the Board was determined to hold the election in August and was making all the necessary preparations in view of that, the restrictions posed by the federal and regional governments under the states of emergency (both national and regional) declared all over the country have made it impossible for the board to meet the deadline.
Other parties in the Tigray region such as ‘Baytona’ and ‘Salsawi Weyane’ have also insisted that the election be held in August and have asked the regional government to “prepare for the election.”
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