Ethiopian Parliament Expresses Consent over Postponement of General Elections

BY Staff Reporter

Election-COVID-19-EthiopiaMay 1, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- The Ethiopian parliament has expressed consent over the proposal of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia that the next general elections should be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During their 14th regular session, the MPs backed the board’s proposal with a majority vote, one against and 18 abstentions after NEBE chair Birtukan Midekissa briefed the board’s decision.

“The board could not conduct voter registrations, offer training to election executives and undertake procurement of elections material due to several measures the federal and regional governments have taken to stem the spread of COVID-19, she said

According to the Ethiopian constitution, the lifetime of the current government expires at the beginning of next October and hence there must be some legal frameworks for the government to stay in power beyond October.

The constitution also states that elections must be conducted every five years and does not give the government an explicit power to extend a term beyond five years.

On Wednesday, the government proposed four alternatives to overcome this challenge. The first was to use Article 60 of the constitution which gives the prime minister a right to dissolve the parliament with the consent of the parliament, in which case an election will have to be held within six months of the parliament’s dissolution.

The second alternative was to extend the state of emergency that has been declared three weeks ago. The government can, with a two-thirds majority in the parliament, renew the state of emergency “every four months successively.”

The third alternative is a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in both houses and a majority in two-thirds of the Councils of regional states. The last alternative is asking the House of Federation for an interpretation on the matter.

The Board had already announced that it will not be able to hold the election in August due to the restrictions posed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, leaving the final decision to the parliament to which the Board is accountable.

The board’s proposal faced opposition from Tigray MPs who claimed that the COVID-19 threat is too risky to suspend the general elections.

 “The constitution provides a range of legal options to address challenges of such kind. The options include declaring State of Emergency and constitutional amendment as stated under articles of 104 and 105 of the constitution. Using these legal grounds, we can fix the challenges,” an MP who represents the Tigray region has said

“In fact, Ethiopia confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is also true that the virus is very contagious and deadly but not reached a pandemic level and hence the elections can be conducted, the other MP from the same region has said

“We must not count as many bodies as the American or Europeans do to declare that COVID-19 is pandemic,” the other MPs said in a counter reply.

Finally, the parliament accepted the board’s decision with a majority vote and referred it to the legal, justice, and administrative standing committee of the parliament for further scrutiny.

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