Coalition of Democratic Federalism statement on election postponement
(ethiopia-insight)—The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia has announced that it will be unable to conduct the 2020 national elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, the House of Peoples’ Representatives approved the election postponement. According to the constitution, the term of office of government is five years, which means that the current government’s constitutional mandate will come to an end on 10 October 2020. With that in mind, the government has tabled four proposals as potential remedies to manage the power vacuum that would occur when its current term expires on October 10. After a careful and considered review of the proposed alternatives, we, the undersigned parties, issue the following statement.
- The constitution makes it clear that power should be acquired only through a periodic election conducted every five years, and the term of office of a government is strictly five years. The electoral board has announced that it will not be able to conduct the election before the current government’s term of office expires. And there is no legal basis that will allow the government to legitimately remain in power past 10 October, even for a single day.
- We have carefully reviewed the four possible solutions proposed by the government to manage what would ultimately become a constitutional crisis. We have concluded that none of the presented options provide a legal basis to extend the mandate of the current government beyond its five-year term limit in the event that the national elections, albeit due to understandable reasons, are not held on time. The constitution does not allow for the declaration of a state of emergency specifically to postpone an election or extend a government’s term. The dissolution of parliament pursuant to Article 60 only allows for an election to be held prior to the expiry of the five-year term. This article cannot be invoked to allow term extensions beyond five years. Undertaking a constitutional amendment in order to add an article or clause that would allow the postponement of an election and/or the extension of term of office does not only negate the spirit of the constitution, it is a complex process that requires public debate and deliberation that cannot be undertaken during a pandemic in any meaningful way.
- The fourth option, constitutional interpretation, which is favored by the government, is not a legal and legitimate reason to postpone the election or extend the incumbent’s term. Although the House of Federation has the power to interpret the constitution, it can only do so on disputed issues contained within the constitution. Unfortunately, the constitution does not stipulate a mechanism for the postponement of elections or extension of terms of office. Furthermore, constitutional interpretation by a legislative body overwhelmingly controlled by a single party, whose members were elected through an election that we know was rigged, amounts to imposition of the will of a single party. Hence, if anything, this option erodes the legitimacy of this government even more, rather than lending it credence.
- It is our view that, in order to collectively and effectively combat the pandemic while preparing for the election, the best and only option is to seek a national consensus among political parties in order to legitimately fill the looming power vacuum.
- We would like to strongly stress that extending the term of government by any other means lacks political or legal legitimacy and could lead to a political as well as a security crisis, which the country cannot afford at a time where it needs a unified front to overcome the multifaceted challenges posed by the pandemic.
In order to find a legitimate solution for the impasse through achieving a national consensus, we believe these principles should be put into practice:
- The deliberation and negotiation should involve all political parties that are registered and qualified to participate in the 2020 election.
- The deliberation and negotiation should be facilitated by entities who do not have direct involvement in electoral affairs and do not have a vested interest in the outcome.
- The final agreement reached by the parties should be binding.
After years of struggle and sacrifice by the Ethiopian people, it was two years ago that we embarked on a transition that we all hoped would usher in a new era of democracy. Unfortunately, negotiations and deliberations which would be vital for a successful transition were not undertaken. Consequently, as we get closer to the election, tension has begun to rise and the political space has further narrowed, dashing the hopes for a successful transition to a democratic order through a free and fair election.
The postponement of the election due to the pandemic can be used as another opportunity to seriously deliberate, correct mistakes made over the last two years, and put the transition back on track. Therefore, we call upon all parties to seize this opportunity and sit for a roundtable deliberation to seek a legitimate political consensus on how to manage the constitutional crisis the country is facing. To this effect, we have prepared a detailed proposal and action plan in line with this recommendation, which we will present at the negotiation forum once it is convened upon acceptance.
Co-signing members of the Coalition of Democratic Federalism:
Oromo Liberation Front
Ogaden National Liberation Front
Oromo Federalist Congress
Agaw National Congress
Mocha Democratic Party
Kaffa Green Party
Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty
Peace, Freedom & Democracy for All Peoples!
Editor’s note: This statement has been edited for style but not content.
Main photo: Opposition politicians at a Prime Minister’s Office discussion; 27 November 2018; Prime Minister’s Office
NEWS UPDATE: TPLF VOWS TO HOLD ITS OWN ELECTIONS, CALLS ON GOV’T TO HALT “ATTEMPTS TO DISMANTLE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER”
ETENESH ABERA @ETENESHAB
Addis Abeba, May 04/2020 – The Executive Committee of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has passed a decision late this evening to hold the upcoming elections at the regional level. The decision came at the end of three days meeting by the EC and comes a day before Ethiopian parliament convenes to approve one of the four alternatives tabled by the federal government.
Breaking: The Executive Committee of #TPLF passed a decision to hold the upcoming election at the regional level. The decision came at the end of 3 days meeting by the EC & comes a day before #Ethiopian parliament convenes to approve one of the 4 alternatives tabled by the gov’t. pic.twitter.com/lumCkcW839
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) May 4, 2020
TPLF’s Executive adopted a five point resolution at the end of the three days meeting, during which the party said it has extensively discussed on current regional administration works, including the region’s efforts to contain the COVID-19. “One of the pressing matters the executive has extensively deliberated on was the issue of the national agenda led by Prosperity Party, which has now reached at a campaign stage where it is threatening to dismantle the constitutional order,” the statement reads.
TPLF accused Prosperity Party of already dragging its feet not hold the elections before the COVID-19 pandemic was reported in Ethiopia, which has now become like “a good opportunity to establish a one man authoritarian rule” and to strengthen the party’s efforts to extend its office term “unconstitutionally.”
TPLF also criticized the April 29 meeting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and representatives of opposition parties during which the Deputy Attorney General Dr. Gedion Timotiwos presented the government’s alternative to avert an impending constitutional crisis due to Ethiopia’s differed elections. The government presented four options during the meeting: Dissolving the Parliament; Declaring a State of Emergency; Amending the Constitution; and seeking Constitutional Interpretations. TPLF called the meeting an incident in which the Prime Minister’s explicit wish to hold on to power unconstitutionally was glaring and said it was “absolutely unacceptable.”
The House of People’s Representatives is expected to approve one of the above four alternatives in its 3rd special session tomorrow. But TPLF’s statement said that it has now become clear that “under the guise of constitutional interpretation the party in power has come too close to dismantling the constitutional order.”
Therefore the Executive of TPLF issues a five point resolution as a response.
The first resolution called for an immediate end of Prosperity Party’s “explicit movement to undo the constitutional order under the guise of constitutional interpretation,” and focus on coordinating efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to hold the elections within the framework of the constitution in a participatory manner involving all political parties.
The second resolution says that while it is important to keep the practice of dialogue, because the ruling Prosperity Party has no moral capacity to conduct free and fair elections TPLF called on ways to reach at a consensus and create a special arrangement whereby the peace and sovereignty of the country is given enough attention and electoral preparations can commence.
The third resolution warned that failure to do will lead to a complicated crisis after October 2020 during which the office term for the current government will come to an end. The likelihood of such crisis, coupled with the “illegitimate manner in which Prosperity Party dissolved EPRDF and crowned itself” will be hard to avoid. However. it said TPLF would be more than willing to work with political parties which are willing to fully recognize the Tigray people’s right to self-administration, including holding regional elections, in order to avert the impending chaos. This movement will be conducted based on principles of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 as well as the acceptable principles of the constitution.
The fourth resolution called on both members of the House of People’s Representatives and House of Federation to stop such as act which is threatening to dismantle the constitutional order in broad day light and distance themselves from it.
And the fifth resolution reaffirms TPLF’s commitment to work with all political parties which have “similar agenda” in its efforts “to help save the multinational federalism order.” AS