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15.01.2020 Ethiopia

Ethiopia election board proposes August vote

By AFP
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali believes the polls will give him a mandate for wide-ranging political and economic reforms.  By Phill Magakoe (AFP/File)
LISTEN JAN 15, 2020
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali believes the polls will give him a mandate for wide-ranging political and economic reforms. By Phill Magakoe (AFP/File)

Ethiopia's electoral board on Wednesday proposed holding landmark national polls in August, at the height of the rainy season, a schedule that immediately drew criticism from at least two political parties.

The elections are a critical step in the political transition being managed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was appointed in 2018 after several years of anti-government protests.

Abiy, this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, believes the polls will give him a mandate for wide-ranging political and economic reforms. He has repeatedly said he expected them to take place in May or June, which he reiterated over the weekend during a visit to South Africa.

But a draft schedule distributed Wednesday by the electoral board calls for voting on August 16.

Voter registration would begin in April and campaigning in May.

Soleyana Shimeles, a spokeswoman for the board, told AFP feedback would be solicited from political parties and other stakeholders before publishing a final schedule on February 1.

"They're debating now and getting inputs," she told AFP. "They'll take the feedback and publish the schedule by February 1."

Asked if she expected the schedule to be altered between now and the end of the month, she said "not much".

During a forum Wednesday at which the schedule was unveiled, multiple political party and civil society representatives raised concerns about the timing, saying the rains would wreak havoc with logistics.

Participants also questioned the readiness of the electoral board and the security situation in Ethiopia, which has struggled to curb ethnic violence.

Representatives of two political parties, the Oromo Liberation Front and Ezema, told AFP they would ask for the date to be pushed back until late August in hope the rains might be less severe.

But they acknowledged that lawmakers' mandates expire in September, making a longer delay untenable.

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