IS THE JUNE 21 ELECTIONS CREDIBLE, FAIR, AND INTEGRAL?
In the case of the Somali Region, the National Elections Board of Ethiopia aka NEBE has recently postponed the election activities of 14 constituencies in the Somali Region due to a number of election irregularities as complained and reported by a consortium of the opposition parties.
The opposition parties complained of numerous malpractices including how the ruling party PP has gravely interfered with the activities of the board officials. The accusations described how PP has placed its party members in the board officers and clerks and then manipulating them to the advantage of the PP party.
Since traditionally it is difficult to separate the ruling party from the functioning government and NEBE entirely relies on the government to execute its mandated independent operations, it has been easy for PP to manipulate NEBE in all of the activities. NEBE coordinators and officers were ordered to restrict and deny registration of opposition candidates across the region and thereby creating a scandal in which NEBE later issues registration certificates to over fifty candidates from Addis Ababa and extended the candidate registration calendar.
In an effort to address the issues, NEBE reported they contacted their officials in the region and verified that they had orders from the PP officials to close the office and deny registration while they could not reach many other officials by phone, it is believed they made themselves unreachable deliberately as they were given orders to do so. When voter registration time came in mid-April, the same scandal unfolded in the entire region when numerous complaints of voter registration were reported.
Reportedly, NEBE and PP officials conspired to restrict voter cards issue to members and supporters of the opposition parties, Voter cards were also re-collected from the people and accumulated at the hands of PP officials, allegedly, people were asked to hand over their registered cards to PP officials or lose the beneficiary status of PSNP program in rural areas and other government facilitated programs as well.
Moreover, NEBE officials have allegedly conspired with PP to register voter cards using fake credentials including fake names and names of dead or absent people. The opposition parties also presented videos of their claims including those gathered in bags and containers and those of people testifying they were threatened and intimidated by PP officials in order to hand over their voter cards, some video footages were recorded of people claiming they were given more voter cards under his single name while other footages showed clerks sitting and plucking voter cards from the register overnight without people present for registration.
The widespread reports of irregularities, fraud, and extortion of people led to the announcement by a consortium of the opposition parties to stop election activities and gave NEBE five days ultimatum to resolve the crisis, the opposition parties demanded the replacement of NEBE officials with neutral ones and replacement of the looted voter cards with new ones.
Despite the fact that the irregularities were reported from all over the region, NEBE later stopped voter registration in seven constituencies only and said they will conduct their investigations to verify the claims. NEBE later announced elections would not be held in 14 constituencies in the Somali region.
NEBE did not clarify how they would address the problems of fraud reported, it did not clarify how they would make voter cards available to everyone since the former cards are in the hands of the ruling party and did not clarify how their officials and clerks accused to be inclined to the ruling party would become neutral and integral and how they will clear the clerks from those accused to be members of the ruling party.
NEBE did not explain why and how they postponed elections in only 14 constituencies despite the fact that the fraud was reported all over the region. In other words, NEBE did not provide any guarantee to the public that the ruling party did not do their dirty job in those constituencies they did not postpone investigations and there is equally no guarantee that they will amicably resolve the problems reported in those 14 constituencies they postponed so that credible, free and fair elections would take place.
NEBE would always find clever excuses and justifications to justify their decisions and activities to push back on the pressure from the opposition parties who are new to the political platform in the regional politics and thereby used as rubberstamp for an election that is completely representing sham elections that were clearly corrupted, unfair and dead on arrival.
The people of the Somali region as well as the people of Ethiopia have never tasted real democracy where the people would freely and fairly decide who would govern them. The 6th Ethiopian general election which was anticipated to be their first election to exercise real democracy has categorically proved to be the worst ever in the three decades of history of a fake democratic system in the country.
– Abdirahman Shiekh Nuur