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Ethiopian general election could take place, says Ministry of Health

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health recommended conditions under which the election could take place.

Ethiopia _ Election
The Minister for Health presenting report to parliamentarians. Photo : FBC

September 18, 2020

In June 2020, the House of Federation announced that it had extended the terms of the federal and regional house of representatives nine months after the coronavirus pandemic is declared “no more a public health threat.” The decision came following a constitutional interpretation practice by an Inquiry Commission established by the House of Representative itself.

Postponement of the election was initiated by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) when it consulted with the Ethiopian Parliament saying that the coronavirus situation in the country made it difficult to undertake activities leading to the election which was meant to take place in August 2020.

Now the Ministry of Health is proposing to the Ethiopian Parliament that the sixth general election could take place under specific circumstances. 

Lia Tadesse, the Minister, made the proposal when she appeared in the parliament on Friday to report on the coronavirus situation in the country and the next steps to be taken, as reported by the state media, Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC).

In the report, she indicated that the spread of Coronavirus is not decreasing in Ethiopia. However, she said, the ministry managed to build capacity “to prevent the spread at all levels,” – a claim that rather sounds contradictory that the spread is not halted.

As of September 17, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases in the country, both active and inactive cases, is 66,913. Ethiopia has so far tested 1,176,252 people across the country.

According to the Ministry, the forecast on the spread of the disease and the number of deaths in the months to come depends on social distancing and the use of facemasks.

Regarding the general election, the Ministry said that it reflected on international experiences under circumstances of a pandemic like coronavirus.

The Ethiopian Election was postponed, said the Minister, at the time when the capacity to prevent and control the pandemic was not strong.

While the pandemic is still a threat, the Ministry now claims that it has better experience and capacity in terms of controlling it. It is also indicated that the pandemic could stay for a longer period which the ministry knew even at the time when the election was postponed. The difference this time around is that the Ministry claims that it has better knowledge of the distribution and has better prevention capacity.

However, it recommended preconditions for conducting the election.

1) Preparation of implementation of election ethics and guidelines that are tailored to the prevention of COVID-19

2) Preparation to implement the guidelines

3) In the event that high infection happens in certain areas, handling the election in a different way

FBC reported that the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives is discussing the proposal from the Ministry and is expected to pass a decision.

Opposition political parties have not yet reacted to the proposal.

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