By Bernabas Shiferaw
May 6, 2020
The House of Peoples’ Representatives has ratified the proposal by the ‘legal, justice and democracy affairs standing committee’ with 25 objections on May 5, 2020. The solution put forward by the committee is to have articles of the constitution interpreted by the House of Federation within one month’s time.
It was last week that the chairman of the National Election Board of Ethiopia had presented the proposition of postponing the election indefinitely due to the threat of COVID-19, which the parliament ratified. The standing committee was then given an assignment to examine the matter and come up with a solution. Meanwhile, the Federal Attorney General’s office had come up with four alternatives to deal with the crisis. The Prime Minister also discussed these alternatives with some opposition leaders.
The articles that are to be interpreted are three. One is Article 54, sub-article 1, which states that “Members of the House of People’s Representatives shall be elected by the People for a term of five years on the basis of universal suffrage and by direct, free, and fair elections held by secret ballot.”
The second is Article 58, sub article 2, which reads as “The House of People’s Representatives shall be elected for a term of five years. Elections for a new House shall be concluded one month prior to the expiry of the House’s term.”
The third is Article 93, which deals with the declaration and execution of states of emergency.
Despite HPR’s decision to postpone the election, the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has announced its decision to hold regional elections as per the original schedule. TPLF has been warning the federal government against postponing the elections beyond August. It has consistently maintained that postponing the election beyond August is a breach of the constitution and the election must be held before the current term of the government ends even with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic looming.
As a response to TPLF’s announcement, Birtukan Mideksa, the Chairman of NEBE has told the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) that it is NEBE’s mandate to hold regional or federal elections and that the board has not been notified of TPLF’s plans to hold elections. She has also said that regional elections cannot be separated from federal elections. And when asked “what if TPLF goes on and holds an election,” she has answered “that would be completely illegal.”
The council of political parties has objected to the decisions of both the parliament and and TPLF. The chairman of the council, Mr. Abdulkadir Adem has told Deutsche Welle that the council had asked, in a press release a day before, the government to consult opposition parties before making a decision on the matter. However, the government had ignored the council’s suggestion and this, according to the council is improper.
The council has also denounced TPLF’s decision to hold an election while NEBE is the only body with a mandate to hold elections which will further complicate the country’s political crisis.
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