The Ethiopian Electoral Board is proposing to postpone the general election scheduled for June 5 by 2-3 weeks.
The reason, as per EBC’s report attached here, is logistical, and does not relate to the growing calls by Ethiopians and the international community to postpone the elections.
The government and the Board are pushing ahead with the election in the face of considerable objection from within and outside. Experts, commentators, policymakers, and opposition politicians have said that the political climate in the country are far from conducive for a fair and free election, repeatedly warning that this election will do nothing to ameliorate Ethiopia’s crisis. The OLF and OFC withdrew from the election, citing a repressive environment in which their offices were closed and key leaders detained, in an attempt to keep them out of the election. Tigray is a war zone, with Eritrea’s ragtag army roaming the streets and brutalizing civilians, with no oversight from Ethiopian forces. The registration process in regions such as Somali, and Oromia, and SNNP is fraught with unacceptable irregularities.
Elsewhere, the international community is calling on Ethiopia to rethink its position. Earlier this month, the EU cancelled planned deployment of its electoral observation mission, citing Ethiopia’s refusal to fulfill standard requirements. The US is also urging the government to create an enabling environment. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee accused Ethiopia of “insist[ing] on staying in power by jailing opposition leaders, persecuting journalists, & stifling free debate.” The chair concluded that “Ethiopians deserve credible elections, not a coronation for the regime.”
It is now clear that this election serves neither the national interest nor the government’s desperate attempt to deal with the clouds of illegitimacy hanging over its head. So, why bother?
The country needs to postpone the election to create an environment conducive to the conduct of a fair, competitive and free elections. For this, they need months, not weeks. Creating a conducive environment means ending wars, releasing political prisoners, and starting a political process that should have inclusive national dialogue at its core.