The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced that the sixth national elections will be held countrywide except in Tigray region on June 5, 2021, despite looming security concerns. It is to be recalled that the Board postponed the elections from late 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Announcing the schedule at a discussion with members of opposition political parties on December 25, 2020, at Radisson Blu Hotel, the chairwoman of the NEBE, Birtukan Midekssa, admitted there are security concerns in the country but they could not put aside the plan to hold the elections for this reason.
Birtukan said that the same concerns also raised by the opposition regarding security matters in the country are genuine and the government has given it due attention. She added that the Board conducted security analysis for areas with potential impact on the election and provided the same to the high-level government task force to oversee election matters and ensure smooth and peaceful conduct of the elections.
She stated that the Board is a member of this task force and expressed her hope that the formation of the task force helps law enforcement officials understand election processes and provide the needed protection accordingly. The board requires security protection for polling stations and the transportation of equipment and personnel.
Some opposition members in the meeting recommended further postponement of the elections because of security concerns including recent attacks in Benshangul-Gumuz. But Birtukan advised them to get this thought out of their minds.
“We can’t wait and give time until all security issues are put under control,” she said.
On the day of the national elections, the NEBE also committed itself to hold a referendum for five zones and one special woreda in the Southern region that requested to form their own regional government. They presented their request to form a regional government called the Southwestern Peoples’ Regional State to the House of the Federation months ago. The House of the Federation directed the Board to conduct a referendum to decide on the statehood of these zones.
City administration level elections in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, however, are slated for July 12, 2021 because the polling stations in these cities are determined by the city councils. As these polling stations can be different from the national polling stations, it was explained, the Board decided to hold the elections at these administrative levels separately in order to avoid confusion.
The Board has also translated its laws to Oromiffa, Afar, Somali and Tigrigna languages so as to make them accessible and brail printing of the laws is underway. Apart from this, audio and video contents are being prepared to reach the disabled members of the society.
But the Board faced challenges in verifying the authenticity of party support signatures presented to them because of capacity limitations at local administrations. Hence, the party took samples from the signatures required for registration by the parties and sent them to local administrations for verification. The Board sampled 35 percent of these signatures to confirm their authenticity with local administrations and registered political parties.