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Ethiopian upper house allows PM Abiy Ahmed’s gov’t to remain in power until after Coronavirus

The House of Federation decision to extend the terms of regional and federal house of representative allows Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to remain in power until the next election which will take place once the Coronavirus threat is arrested. Radical Oromo Opposition groups opposed the decision.

Members of House of Federation (Ethiopia’s upper House)

June 10, 2020

Ethiopian House of Federation (upper house) decided that regional state councils and Federal Parliament will continue to work until next election

The Ethiopian House of Federation (the upper house in the Ethiopian Federal government structure) on Wednesday passed a decision for the regional and federal house of representatives to continue working until after the Coronavirus is declared to be not a threat in the country.

The decision is informed by a recommendation from the Constitutional Inquiry Commission which was tasked to interpret the Federal Constitution of Ethiopia to resolve what many considered to be a “constitutional crisis.”

It means that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will remain in power until the next election which is now set to take place between nine and twelve months after a relevant authority (like Public Health Institute of Ethiopia or the Ministry of Health) declares Coronavirus no longer a threat to the public.

The decision did not come as a unanimous one. Four members of the Federation, whose identity is undisclosed, voted against the motion to let the regional and federal house of representatives to continue to work until the next election whose schedule is unknown.  One member of the house abstained, and one hundred and fourteen members voted in favor of the motion.

On May 6, the Ethiopian Federal Parliament passed a decision to have articles of the constitution in pursuit of postponing the 6th general election without violating the constitution. The decision came after the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia advised the parliament that it can not go ahead with the scheduled election in August 2020 due to the coronavirus situation in the country.

Three articles of the constitution (54, 58, and 93) that were said to be relevant to resolve the constitutional limbo were selected for interpretation. The vote in the House of Federation and the consequent decision represents the culmination of the process.

Despite the outcome being presumed to be legal, it is said to have political repercussions.

Opposition from TPLF and ethnic Oromo Nationalist Bloc

As a demonstration of opposition to delayed national election, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (which administers Tigray regional state in northern Ethiopia) reiterated that it will go ahead with organizing an election in the region. 

The latest expression of resistance to the postponed election happened this week. Speaker of the House of the Federation, Keria Ibrahim who is a member of TPLF, unexpectedly announced her resignation just a day before the meeting she called to discuss the findings of the Constitutional Inquiry Commission. “I cannot oversee a process as speaker of the Federation, a decision that endangers the constitution,” she said, appearing on Tigray Mass Media Agency (TMMA) television on June 8. 

Yesterday, news emerged that a spokesperson of TPLF wrote a letter to members of the international community including the African Union seeking intervention to avert what it called Ethiopia’s move in a dangerous path which makes a reference to the deferred election as a manifestation of intent to install a dictatorial regime.

Chairperson of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), Birtuakan Mideksa, appeared on state TV sometime in May to express that Tigray Regional State cannot conduct an election on its own terms as the mandate to conduct an election is exclusively, and constitutionally, reserved for NEBE.

The Federal government of Ethiopia sees the task of ensuring no “illegal” election is taking place as a matter of enforcing the constitution of the country. 

TPLF is not the only challenge to the Federal government. Radical ethnic Oromo nationalists are also claiming that the government made all the decisions about constitutional interpretations “without consulting with the opposition.”  Activists with radical Oromo ethnic nationalism political convictions, like Jawar Mohammed, are also mobilizing for a protest to reject the government after September 30, 2020 – which was meant to be the end of the term for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) have issued a joint-statement opposing the House of Federation’s decision to extend the term of government.

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