Ethiopia defers landmark August vote due to coronavirus

An Ethiopian health worker sprays disinfectant as part of measures to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus in Addis Ababa March 29, 2020. — Reuters pic
An Ethiopian health worker sprays disinfectant as part of measures to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus in Addis Ababa March 29, 2020. — Reuters pic

ADDIS ABABA, April 1 — Ethiopia’s election commission announced yesterday that general elections due in August would be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, in a setback for the country’s fragile democratic transition.

No new timeline was given for the vote, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate — hopes will give him a mandate for sweeping political and economic reforms.

“Because of issues related to the coronavirus, the board has decided it can’t conduct the election as planned... so it has decided to void that calendar and suspend all activities,” the poll body said in a statement

It said a new date would be given “when the pandemic is over”.

Ethiopia has recorded 25 cases of Covid-19 and federal and regional officials have introduced a range of measures intended to curb its spread, including banning large gatherings and restricting travel.

These measures would have prevented the timely completion of activities like voter registration and the recruitment and training of observers, the election commission said.

Well before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, opposition parties and analysts had voiced concern that the election board was behind schedule.

The scheduled date of August 29 had also been a point of contention because it falls at the height of the rainy season.

Jawar Mohammed, a leading opposition politician, told AFP yesterday that a new calendar “cannot be done by the ruling party alone”. — AFP

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