Today’s decision by the Tigray Regional State Council is seen as a push back that could put the country on a different political trajectory.
BY PAUL RICHARDSON | BLOOMBERG
Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region announced it will proceed with elections, ignoring the electoral board’s postponement of nationwide balloting and placing its administration on a collision course with the federal government.
The decision highlights divisions that have emerged between Ethiopia’s ethnic groups since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power two years ago with a pledge to loosen state control.
The reforms have emboldened some political groups to demand greater regional autonomy, triggering unrest, and jeopardizing plans to open up the economy to foreign investment.
“The Tigray State Council decided to hold regional elections on time,” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said in a statement on its official Facebook page. (see statement below)
National elections, which had been scheduled for August and were being touted as a key test of Abiy’s reforms, were postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote is expected to be held in 2021. On Wednesday, Ethiopian lawmakers whose mandate was set to end in October voted to extend their terms until the poll takes place.
The TPLF effectively ruled Ethiopia from 1991 until Abiy’s ascent to power.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that it headed was merged in December by Abiy into what is now known as the Prosperity Party. The TPLF has branded the new party unconstitutional.
“If Tigray’s ruling party, the TPLF, sticks to its plan to hold regional elections in the next couple of months despite this decision to extend all administrations’ terms, that puts the region on a potential collision course with the federal government,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Ethiopia.
“Both parties should immediately convene discussions to address this risk.”
(TPLF STATEMENT) – Tigray State Council, in its 7th extraordinary session held today, has authorized the Regional State to conduct election in accordance with its constitutional duties.
The Council emphasized that the election should be held with high care and responsibility amidst the Corona Virus pandemic having utilized previous experiences.
The Council also rejected the constitutional violations by the Ethiopian House of Federation in putting off national election under the pretext of COVID-19 pandemic.
The postponement of Parliamentary and Regional elections at country level which was previously scheduled for August 2020 due to Coronavirus outbreak is vividly constitutional violation, the state council underscored.
Despite the nationwide postponement of election, the Council validated that the election should proceed in Tigray Regional State to safeguard the rights of the people of Tigray who had sacrificed to ensure their democratic and fundamental rights.
The State Council also highlighted to send a formal inquiry to the Ethiopian National Elections Board so that it could lend a hand in facilitating the election.
The President of Tigray Regional State Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) who participated in the Council’s seventh extraordinary session emphasized the need to make overall preparations as this election is quite different from the previous ones.
This election differs from the previous ones for it will conduct amidst COVID 19 pandemic, take place at a time where there is a constitutional violation, and when the country is under the dread of disintegration.
The current scenario is pretty different from the normal situations as the team in power has been working restlessly to take the country back to where it was some thirty years ago, he added.
He also urged all Tigrians to join hands and strengthen their unison in a bid to defend any imposition upon them and the region.
It is known that according to Proclamation number 1162/2011 Article 7 (1) the National Electoral Board has an obligation to oversee elections every five years.