Ethiopia Election 2020 Section

Ethiopia Elections Postponed to August

Plans to hold the vote for parliament and regional councils in May had been postponed as neither authorities nor parties would be ready, electoral board head Birtukan Mideksa told a meeting of political parties and civil society groups. (Reuters)

Reuters

Ethiopia sets tentative August date for elections

By Dawit Endeshaw

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia proposes to hold its national vote on Aug. 16, the electoral board said on Wednesday, the first poll under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who has eased political restrictions and taken steps to open the economy since taking office in 2018.

Ethiopia’s 100 million people are seeing unprecedented political change, but Abiy’s reforms have also uncorked ethnic rivalries that have spilled into violence.

Plans to hold the vote for parliament and regional councils in May had been postponed as neither authorities nor parties would be ready, electoral board head Birtukan Mideksa told a meeting of political parties and civil society groups.

The new Aug. 16 date is tentative, she told Reuters. Results would be due between Aug. 17-26.

One opposition political party said Aug. 16 was unsuitable because it is a fasting day for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and falls during the rainy season.

“There are concerns that need to be resolved and addressed specifically on the schedule,” Desalegn Chane, president of the opposition National Movement of Amhara, told Reuters.

Ethiopia has held regular parliamentary elections since the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power in 1991 but, with one exception, none were competitive.

The EPRDF appointed Abiy, 43, in 2018 after three years of anti-government protests. Among the achievements of his first year in office was peace with longtime foe and neighbor Eritrea, for which Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His promised reforms include a credible multi-party poll in 2020.

In November, the ruling coalition approved a merger of three of its four ethnic-based parties into a single national party as part of Abiy’s efforts to unite the country.

Abiy has freed journalists and activists, lifted bans on political parties, appointed former dissidents to high-level posts and prosecuted officials for rights abuses.

But violence in the regions has forced 2.4 million people out of their homes, according to the United Nations, and delayed both a national census and local elections. Opposition politicians have repeatedly warned that election delays could fuel unrest and dent the democratic credentials of Abiy.

William Davison, Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the opposition could pose a real challenge to the ruling party.

“An overall majority for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s party is by no means guaranteed, especially if the opposition is allowed to freely campaign,” Davison said.


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2020 is Election Season Across Africa

Several African countries, including Ethiopia, are holding consequential elections in the coming few months. But so far here in the Diaspora the discussion has been limited to the usual rancor and empty rhetoric on social media and other platforms. Below is a more informative recent article by the United Nations Africa Renewal magazine highlighting the upcoming election season across the continent. (AP photo)

Africa Renewal – UN.org

Voters across the continent will be heading to the ballot box this year to choose their leaders in presidential, parliamentary and local elections starting with the Comoros in January and ending with Ghana in December.

Comorians will be electing a new 33-member national assembly following presidential elections in 2019 while Ghanaians will select their parliamentarians and president on 7 December.

In Chad and Mauritius, electoral commissions have yet to decide on exact dates, but absent unexpected delays, the polls should go ahead as legally mandated. In Seychelles, the electoral body will decide in August when the presidential election will be held later in the year.

Overall, the polls are expected to be peaceful and free. Yet, for different reasons, some countries like Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali and Somalia are ones to watch.

In Ethiopia, elections of members of the House of People’s Representatives and of regional State Councils will be held in a new political environment ushered in by the youthful Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reforms. Having won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending a two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, observers will be eager to learn to what extent Mr Abiy’s changes are taking hold and how much domestic support he has earned since the award was announced.

Polls in Somalia will be the first in 50 years. Voters will elect the president and their representatives through direct ballots – the last universal suffrage polls having been held in 1969. Previous presidential elections held in 2009, 2012 and 2017 involved a system of thousands of clan delegates voting for parliamentary representatives, who in turn elected the president. Election preparations are currently underway, including the drafting of electoral laws, though security remains a concern throughout the country.

Togolese will go to the polls in April to cast their ballots for president with the possibility of a run-off should no candidate garner more than 50% of the votes. The polls will be the first to be held since presidential term limits were restored in 2019.

Since Ghana’s transition to multi-party democracy in 1992 elections have generally been peaceful, and their results generally considered fair. This trend is expected to continue, amid the government’s recent claims to have nipped in the bud attempts at a coup by a group of civilians, and former and current military personnel.

In Burkina Faso, Burundi and Tanzania, voters will be called to choose their presidents first, then their national assemblymen and women later in the year. Burundians will elect a new president, as the incumbent is retiring.

In Burkina Faso and Mali, recurring violence in some areas, some of it deadly, is likely to affect the polls. Over the last few months, terrorist activity has increasingly targeted civilians and security forces, including peacekeepers in Mali. Given the circumstances organising nationwide elections will be a challenge.

In Côte d’Ivoire things are not straightforward either. The country has remained stable since the hotly contested 2010 presidential poll that helped mark the end of a decade of armed conflict. Now Ivoirians look towards October polls, but the political coalition has progressively frayed, and old political fault lines have resurfaced.

Guineans are scheduled to choose a new assembly and president come October too. Parliamentary elections were postponed earlier this year given political tensions over plans to call a referendum on lifting constitutional term limits. Large demonstrations against the plan have been witnessed across the country, including in the capital Conakry. The heightening tension is likely to affect the upcoming polls.


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Ethiopia Election 2020 Campaign Update: Prominent activist Joins Opposition Party

Jawar Mohammed joins opposition party. (Image: In this Thursday Oct. 24, 2019 file photo, Jawar Mohammed speaks during an interview with Associated Press at his house in Addis Ababa/AP photo / Mulugeta Ayene)

The Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET

Prominent activist Joins Opposition Party

ADDIS ABABA (AP) — A prominent activist for Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group has announced that he’s joined an opposition party.

Jawar Mohammed’s membership in the Oromo Federalist Congress party comes five months before general elections that will test the popularity of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the east African nation of more than 100 million people.

“I have been working with the party as a supporter for a long time,” Jawar told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I am attracted to the party because of their clear and strong stand on federalism.”

Jawar and the party are expected to call for greater autonomy for Ethiopia’s regional states, including Oromia, which is the largest and most populous.

Bitter ethnic rivalries resulting in violent clashes are one of the most serious challenges to Abiy’s government. More than 1,200 people were killed and more than 1.2 million others displaced in clashes in the country within the past year, Ethiopia’s Attorney General Office disclosed in September. The clashes, most of which took place along ethnic lines, threaten Abiy’s reforms.

Until recently, Jawar was seen as an ally of the prime minister. When he was living in the U.S. many say Jawar played a key role on social media in mobilizing widespread protests that led the previous prime minister to resign and saw Abiy rise to power in April, 2018.

Last year, Abiy relaxed restrictions on political activists which allowed Jawar and others to return to Ethiopia without fear of arrest.

But recently frictions emerged between Abiy and Jawar. In October Abiy criticized “media personalities with foreign passports” for causing troubles in Ethiopia, a comment widely seen as criticism of Jawar.

A day later, Jawar alleged there were attempts to remove his government-provided security guards and hundreds of his supporters flocked to his residence to offer him protection. Unrest that followed in some parts of the country, mainly Oromia, resulted in the deaths of several dozen people.

Jawar, owner of the Oromo Media Network which has a television station, website and magazine, has more than 1.7 million followers on Facebook and a large support base in the Oromia region.

“I will use my influence, network, and experience to help strengthen the party,” he said, adding that the party will decide what office he will run for in the upcoming elections in May, 2020.

One last hurdle remains before he can launch a political career, however. Jawar holds U.S. citizenship, which prevents him from being a candidate for office in Ethiopia. He said he has started the process of relinquishing his U.S. passport and regaining his Ethiopian citizenship. He said “it will be completed soon.”

Jawar is seen by many as a polarizing figure. While many in Oromia consider him a hero who pushed hard for change in Ethiopia, others call him an opportunist who is waiting for the right time to assume power.

“Jawar joining the opposition party’s leadership would convert the party into a major political force, as he is popular among Oromo and has considerable ability to influence and mobilize Oromo voters using his various media platforms,” William Davison, International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, told the AP.


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Ethiopia Elections Postponed to August

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Ethiopia Election 2020: Plan to Dissolve Ruling Party Prompts Internal Criticism

VOA reports that the latest expression of disapproval to PM Abiy Ahmed's efforts to reorganize and rebrand the ruling coalition in advance of next year's election is coming from senior government officials including Defense Minister Lemma Megerssa, who is "currently visiting the U.S. with a delegation aiming to strengthen the two countries’ defense partnerships." (Reuters photo)

VOA News

By Salem Solomon

Efforts to End Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Draw Criticism from Within

WASHINGTON – A decision by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to dissolve the ruling party months ahead of the 2020 national election has prompted criticism from the upper echelons of his own government.

In an interview with VOA’s Afaan Oromo Service, Minister of Defense Lemma Megerssa said unrest in the country means it is the wrong time to create a new political party.

“Merging this party is not timely as there are many dangers. We are in a transition,” he said, speaking in Afaan Oromo. “This is borrowed time; it is not ours. We are facing several problems from different places during this borrowed time.”

Lemma is currently visiting the U.S. with a delegation aiming to strengthen the two countries’ defense partnerships.

In November, Abiy announced that the country’s ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF, would dissolve and become one unified party called the Prosperity Party.

Tagesse Chafo Speaker of House of Representative, left, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, right, leaving the parliament…

The decision came after a vote by coalition members in support of the change. On December 1, the prime minister held a ceremony in the capital celebrating the new party and saying it “has also prepared a clear program and bylaws as well as a 10-year plan that leads Ethiopia to prosperity,” state-media reported. Previously the EPRDF had been a coalition of four ethnically based parties.

VOA Report

But the decision has prompted a backlash. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) refused to take part in the vote to form the new party. Debretsion Gebremichael, the TPLF chairman and acting regional president, told reporters in a press briefing that the move “weakens the federal system and takes away the rights of people to self-administration. The drive to form a united party does not consider the existing situations in the country.”

And though the Oromo Democratic Party, formerly the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, voted in favor of the change, prominent Oromo leaders have voiced displeasure. Lemma, who is from the Oromo ethnic group, said the party has not yet delivered on its promises to its people and therefore should continue to exist. “The [Oromo Party] leaders have promised to answer some of the big questions the Oromo people have entrusted us with,” he said. “Doing this without answering questions is not right, and it’s failing to deliver on the promises we made.”

Over the last three to four years, Oromo people have protested what they view as unfair treatment over a host of issues, including land rights in and around the capital city, Addis Ababa. Protests in late October over an alleged threat to the safety of Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed led to the deaths of 86 people.

Lemma and others argue that a change now will do little to quell the ethnic violence spreading in Ethiopia. “It’s not the time to come up with something new, but a time to solve problems that we should be focused on,” he said. “We should focus on maintaining peace and stability and focus on macroeconomics, especially people’s struggle with the rising cost of living.”

But Fekadu Tessema, a spokesman for Abiy’s governing coalition, said the change was not a hasty decision. “We don’t think that the process has been sped up. It has been in the works for a year and a half, and the change has to be led with a clear flow chart and vision,” he said.

He also said the unified party is in line with Abiy’s guiding philosophy known as “medemer,” or “addition.” The philosophy seeks to erase the division between people and create a nation that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“What ‘medemer’ means is to highlight our knowledge, our thinking, and putting all the good attributes in one place,” Fekadu said. “And things like hate, violation of human rights, the question of injustice, and the issues of lack of democracy and lack of freedom and other issues that people have been pointing out, and issues that were seen during the time of EPRDF, have to be corrected.”

This story is based on interviews that originated in the Horn of Africa Service. VOA Afaan Oromo service’s Jalene Gemeda conducted the interview with Minister of Defense Lemma Megerssa in Afaan Oromo, and Tizita Belachew translated the interview in Amharic. Muktar Jemal interviewed Fekadu Tessema, a spokesman for Abiy’s governing coalition, in Amharic.


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Ethiopia Election 2020: Ruling Coalition Seeks to Further Unite Ahead of Vote

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. (Getty Images)

Bloomberg

By Samuel Gebre

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition took a step closer to the creation of a national unity party as Africa’s second most-populous nation prepares for elections.

The executive committee of the alliance voted for the merger of the four parties, Fikadu Tessema, a committee member, said in an interview with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp.

The move will include a fair representation of the ethnic groups in the alliance, Tessema told the national broadcaster. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front or EPRDF, a former rebel movement that’s made up of four regional parties, will wait for the final confirmation from the coalition’s 180-member council. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) faction of the party opposed the merger.


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Ethiopia Election 2020: Prominent Abiy Critic Says to Stand in Election (AFP)

Mired in controversy, Jawar Mohammed says he is running for office (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

AFP

Prominent Abiy Critic Says to Stand in Ethiopia Election

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Jawar Mohammed, a former ally turned foe of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, told AFP on Saturday he would join the race for a 2020 election to ensure that it is “free and fair”.

Jawar, a media mogul and activist who was at the centre of last month’s deadly protests in Addis Ababa, is credited with helping to sweep Abiy to power but has recently criticised some of the premier’s policies.

Jawar told an audience in the US state of Minnesota that he would run in next year’s vote, a decision he confirmed to AFP by phone.

“I’ve not decided which position or which party. What I’ve decided is to run,” he said.

“The purpose is to help to ensure the election is free and fair. I want to add my voice and my influence to ensure the election is free and fair. And I want to make sure the federalist voices are given enough space in the debate.”

Both Abiy, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Jawar are from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, and their feud highlights divisions within the Oromo support base that could complicate the prime minister’s bid for a five-year term.

Ethiopian-born Jawar said he would have to give up his current US citizenship and reclaim Ethiopian citizenship to be able to enter the contest, in which he said he could run for the Oromia regional parliament or the national assembly.

Jawar, who has 1.7 million followers on Facebook, said he would return to Ethiopia within 10 days to start the paperwork needed for his candidacy.

Ethiopia’s general election is scheduled for May 2020, but many observers expect the vote to be delayed as preparations are already running behind schedule.


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Ruling Coalition Seeks to Further Unite Ahead of Vote

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