“The board is the sole organ that decides the electoral calendar, electoral process or other related issues. Therefore Tigray regional state has no legal basis to decide to conduct the election.” – National Election Board (NEBE)
Ethiopia rejected a request by its northernmost Tigray region on Wednesday to hold elections in August due to the coronavirus outbreak, likely widening the gulf between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ruling Prosperity Party.
The TPLF, the governing party of the region, split acrimoniously from the national Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition last year when its three other parties merged to form the new Prosperity Party.
The Horn of Africa country in March postponed parliamentary and regional elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus. The TPLF said last month it would go ahead with elections in Tigray.
“Because of COVID-19 there are no favourable conditions to hold elections,” the National Electoral Board said in an Amharic-language statement.
It also said that Tigray’s regional council did not have the mandate to hold elections.
The TPLF did not respond to requests for comment.
The elections scheduled for August had been regarded as a litmus test for the country’s fragile unity, challenged by many newly resurgent regional and ethnically based parties.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been positioning himself as a unity candidate whose reform agenda could serve as the glue holding often fractious federal regions together.
He promised to hold a free and fair vote in a nation where elections have historically marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation.
Ethiopia has reported 5,032 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 78 deaths.