Dozens of election errors occurred at polling stations in the Wolayita zone, forcing the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to decide that a new round of voter registration and voting would be held.
In a press conference held this week, the Board stated that voter registration for the referendum was void. It has not been decided when the second round will take place yet.
There was a vote on the creation of a new regional state from the existing region in the Wolayita, Gamo, Gofa, South Omo, Gedeo, and Konso zones and the Derashe, Amaro, Burji, Ale, and Basketo special districts.
An election was held on February 6, 2023, although the Board noted that serious illegal and improper activity was revealed in a number of voting districts during the entire process.
Out of a total of over three million voters registered at 3769 polling stations, more than one million voters are registered in Wolayita zones. Data from Wolayita, however, remains unverified. Samples of voter registrations were drawn by the Board from 350 registrations at 277 polling locations.
The inquiry revealed that 337 out of 350 voter registrations (96 percent) were invalid due to a variety of violations of the election proclamation’s basic principles and objectives, beginning with the registration process and ending with the actual voting itself.
The Board cited instances of voting for a third party, voting by minors, breaches of the secret ballot, improper handling of voting cards, and the presence of unauthorized observers at polling stations.
Many irregularities were discovered, such as the improper use of government employees, the forced use of board personnel to register voters, and the door-to-door distribution of voter ID cards.
In light of the numerous issues discovered during the investigation, the Board has requested that the federal police launch an investigation and take appropriate legal action against anyone who participated in the wrongdoing in any way.
Even though the referendum in Wolayta was invalidated, the final count of votes from the other six zones and five special Woreda showed that more than 90 percent of voters supported creating a new region.
Gobeze Goa, the president of the Woliyta People Democratic Front Party, told The Reporter that the referendum was illegally held and that the Prosperity Party (PP) alone had decided to cluster Wolayita and hold a vote to create a new region. This, he says, is not in the interest of the people, and that “this is why we must create our own Wolayita region, and the public decided not to take cards from the beginning.”
If the board decides to hold a second round of voting, there must be a third option that gives the people of Woliyta the choice of making their own region in addition to making a cluster region or staying in the current region.
Similarly, Woliyta National Moment Party president Amanuel Mogiso echoed the same. He says the decision of the PP to put Wolyita in a cluster is unconstitutional. He claims that “since the public does not have the interest to get into a referendum with this scheme, they prefer not to take a voting card. Unfortunately, local government officials have started handing out cards door to door, against the law and against the interests of the public.”
The Board’s judgment was based on a variety of factors, including an inconsistency between the number of people who actually participated during the voting and the number of registered voters, as well as illegal amendments made to the result notification form and final result document.
In addition, it was revealed that ballot papers had been found folded in a ballot box and temporary ID cards had been allegedly issued to voters.