May 1, 2020 -- Ethiopian Parliament Expresses Consent over Postponement of General Elections

 The Ethiopian parliament has expressed consent over the proposal of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia that subsequent general elections should be postponed thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

May 1, 2020  -- Ethiopian Parliament Expresses Consent over Postponement of General Elections

During their 14th regular session, the MPs backed the board’s proposal with a majority vote, one against and 18 abstentions after NEBE chair Birtukan Midekissa briefed the board’s decision.
“The board couldn't conduct voter registrations, offer training to election executives and undertake procurement of elections material thanks to several measures the federal and regional governments have taken to stem the spread of COVID-19, she said

According to the Ethiopian constitution, the lifetime of the present government expires at the start of next October and hence there must be some legal frameworks for the govt to remain in power beyond October.

The constitution also states that elections must be conducted every five years and doesn't give the govt a particular power to increase a term beyond five years.

On Wednesday, the govt proposed four alternatives to beat this challenge. the primary was to use Article 60 of the constitution which provides the prime minister a right to dissolve the parliament with the consent of the parliament, during which case an election will need to be held within six months of the parliament’s dissolution.

The second alternative was to increase the state of emergency that has been declared three weeks ago. the govt can, with a two-thirds majority within the parliament, renew the state of emergency “every four months successively.”

The third alternative may be a constitutional amendment, which needs a two-thirds majority in both houses and a majority in two-thirds of the Councils of regional states. The last alternative is asking the House of Federation for an interpretation on the matter.

The Board had already announced that it'll not be ready to hold the election in August thanks to the restrictions posed to stop the spread of COVID-19, leaving the ultimate decision to the parliament to which the Board is accountable.

The board’s proposal faced opposition from Tigray MPs who claimed that the COVID-19 threat is just too risky to suspend the overall elections.

 “The constitution provides a variety of legal options to deal with challenges of such kind. the choices include declaring State of Emergency and constitutional amendment as stated under articles of 104 and 105 of the constitution. Using these legal grounds, we will fix the challenges,” an MP who represents the Tigray region has said

“In fact, Ethiopia confirmed cases of COVID-19. it's also true that the virus is extremely contagious and deadly but not reached an epidemic level and hence the elections are often conducted, the opposite MP from an equivalent region has said

“We must not count as many bodies because the American or Europeans do to declare that COVID-19 is pandemic,” the opposite MPs said during a counter reply.

Finally, the parliament accepted the board’s decision with a majority vote and referred it to the legal, justice, and administrative committee of the parliament for further scrutiny.
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