The June 21 polls were seen as key evidence of democratic reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopia’s polling body has said national elections will be held on June 21 with two delays, which will kick off a new countdown to a key test of democratic reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Africa’s second most populous country was due to hold the polls for the first time last August, but officials pushed them until June 5 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, last weekend’s chairman of the electoral board, Birtukan Mideksa, announced that a further delay was needed due to logistical problems related to tasks such as the training of election staff and the printing and distribution of ballots.
The new date of June 21 was revealed at a press conference on Thursday by election board spokeswoman Solyana Shimeles after meetings with the Abyy government, opposition parties and regional officials.
Solyana said she did not expect further delays, citing the upcoming rainy season that begins in June and could wreak havoc with infrastructure.
“It simply came to our notice then [hold] before the rainy season, ”he said.
Logistical challenges promise to be daunting even with the delay, and Solyana estimated Thursday that the board should hire more than 100,000 additional employees and train them in voting day procedures and tabulated results.
The lack of staff has been especially evident so far in remote and African regions, where registration began late, he said.
Abiy came to power in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests and vowed to partly break Ethiopia’s authoritarian past by holding the most democratic elections the country has ever seen.
His reform agenda earned him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but his tenure has been plagued by security challenges, most notably the six-month war in the northern Tigray region, which did not will participate in the June 21 polls.
About 36 million Ethiopians had registered to vote last weekend, although they had not registered in several constituencies. ethnic violence, including the most populous regions of the country, Oromia and Amhara.
Circumscriptions affected by conflicts
Solyana said it would be “very difficult” to include these constituencies affected by the June 21 conflict.
But he said he hoped voters in those areas could vote before a new parliamentary session began in early October.
Elections will elect national and regional parliamentarians. National MPs elect the prime minister, who is the head of government, as well as the president, a largely ceremonial role.
The ruling coalition that preceded Abiy claimed surprising majors in the previous two elections, which according to observers fell far short of international equity standards.
A more open contest in 2005 saw big gains for the opposition, but sparked a lethal crackdown on protests over the contested results.
This year, some opposition parties, especially in Abiy’s home region, have opted to boycott, complaining that their candidates have been arrested and their vandals dispatched.