Government Has the Mandate to Stay in Power Until Next Election: Legal Experts

By Staff Reporter

Ethiopian-ConstitutionMay 17, 2020 ( -- High profile legal experts said Constitutional Interpretation is a better legal option to deal with the issue of extending the controversial Ethiopian general election which was suspended due to coronavirus infection.

In a public hearing organized by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry over the weekend, the prominent legal experts said the incumbent government is constitutionally mandated to stay in power until it legally transfers responsibility to an elected government.

Dozens of political parties including the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) have been insisting on the conduct of the general elections scheduled for August 29, 2020, in line with the constitution and “failing to do so will result in a political crisis in the country.”

The Ethiopian constitution states that general election should be held every five years and according to the political parties “the legitimacy of the current Ethiopian government will end next September”  

International conventions and agreements Ethiopia adopted oblige the government to protect the well being and rights of citizens through legal instruments and the outbreak of COVID-19 will give the government absolute right to extend the election, the legal experts have claimed.

The legal professionals also argued that the Ethiopian constitution does not restrict the lifetime of the government but states when the general elections should be conducted. Hence, “the government can stay in power until it is replaced by winning political party.”

The experts claimed that even though the Ethiopian constitution states that a general election should be held every five years, it can be extended based on the constitutional interpretation.

The legal experts further said unlike the constitutions of other countries, the Ethiopian constitution lacks provisions on matters of elections in case of global pandemics like COVID-19 and natural disasters.

According to the legal experts, the existing constitution id subjected to ambiguity, and those people who crafted the constitution had limitations to forecast the future.

The constitution does not say if the government can stay in power or dissolve itself if election is not held at the end of the five-year term.

The experts argued that it is not enough to hold elections on time but the election should be inclusive, independent, free, and fair and should be held secretly as per article 54 of the constitution.

Under the influence of COVID-19, the country can not hold the election and any attempt to hold an election will breach the constitution, the experts added.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the federal government and the Tigray regional state declared states of emergency due to which the rights of people to move from place to place, meet, and exercise their democratic rights are compromised.   

In early May, the parliament made the request after the majority of parliamentarians voted for Constitutional Interpretation as a better legal option to deal with a constitutional crisis.

State of Emergency, Constitutional amendment, and dissolving parliament were other options considered by the Ethiopian parliament.

Accordingly, three articles namely Article 54 (1), 58, (2) and Article 93 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia will be interpreted in the process to see if the Ethiopian government can extend the election, and if so, under what circumstances.  

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