By Abdiaziz Loyal – Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
Ethiopia says it has postponed elections due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has announced, Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
General elections were due to be held on Saturday, August 29, 2020, to elect officials to the House of Peoples’ Representatives. Regional and council elections were also due at the same time.
No new date has been announced. The board says it will assess and put in place a new plan once the threat of Coronavirus is over.
The polls in August are a key test of the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.
“Due to the pandemic we were forced to suspend our activities,” said NEBE. The board will announce a new timeline once the pandemic has subsided, the statement added.
When Abiy took power in 2018, he promised to liberalize the state-run economy and introduced reforms that saw thousands of political prisoners released.
He had promised to hold free and fair elections in August when his party would have faced a stiff challenge from many ethnically-based parties newly emboldened by his reforms. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation.
The country’s Ministry of Health posted after the announcement preaching on the need for social distancing. “Prevent Coronavirus disease by maintaining your physical distance!”, the Ministry said.
Ethiopia has recorded 26 cases of COVID-19 and federal and regional officials have introduced a range of measures intended to curb its spread.
The current Ethiopian regime has close ties to the Somali government led by President Mohamed Farmajo, and it’s unknown whether it will take a similar decision, while there is suspicion that the Somali President wants to extend his term.