The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has made a purchase of various equipment and materials and printing services for the 2020 Ethiopian Election to the tune of USD nine million, it was learnt. The Chairperson of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) signed the supply agreements on December 18, 2019, with a Dubai based company specifying the items and the timeframe for the purchase.
According to information obtained from the NEBE, “through the design and selection of materials to be used in voter registration for 2020 General Elections, NEBE aims at producing forms and books that comply with the provisions of the electoral proclamation and recognized international standards for paper voter registration; strengthen the robustness of the electoral process by introducing technical specifications and materials that minimize potential for wrongdoings, and produce materials that are user-friendly for registration staff to ensure that procedures are implemented correctly and consistently across the country.”
Soleyana Shemeles, the Communications Advisor to the NEBE, told The Reporter that “the NEBE designed all materials to be printed in five languages including Amharic, Amharic/Oromiffa, Amharic/Tigrigna, Amharic/Afar, and Amharic/Somali.”
The main materials being procured internationally, according to Soleyana, are voter registration book (voter list books), voter cards book, and plastic boxes with seals, to be used in the transport of materials to a secured storage facility at polling stations for overnight stays, voter registration forms, and voter registration stationary kits. Other materials like forms and stamps are to be procured locally.
She also pointed out that the design of voter list books with a unique identification number for each and every voter which are sequentially printed on books in a user-friendly manner, coupled with the design of voter card books with security features included in the design of voter cards, the introduction of plastic boxes and plastic seals to securely store sensitive material during voter registration as well as polling, and introduction of tamper-evident bags for securing books during transportation and after the completion of the process are the main improvements seen in the preparation for the upcoming election.
This procurement process was carried out by the UNDP’s Supporting Elections for Ethiopia’s Democratic Strengthening (SEEDS) program through its Procurement Services Unit in Copenhagen, Soleyana said, underlining NEBE did not conduct any kind of procurement.
“The NEBE designed technical specifications for all the materials and decided to procure materials for 50,900 polling stations based on the number of polling stations opened in 2015 and the population projections provided by the central statistical agency plus 12.5 percent contingency,” Soleyana explained, adding that the numbers changed after lessons from the Sidama referendum, held last November.
The procurement also includes training materials, even though the Board is yet to fix a date for the polls.
Asked if the short time remaining until the current parliament finishes its term would pose any challenge, Soleyana said that “it is obvious that time is against us. We are trying our best to make sure that we have the necessary preparations done as soon as possible.”
Addressing the concern whether this hastened preparation would make the credibility of the elections questionable, she said that “credibility of an election is a combination of many things not merely logistical preparations. We are working on showing our commitment, independence, and credibility by changing the previous course of the organization. We hope a combination of these will be very helpful to improve the credibility of the election.
Meanwhile, the incumbent Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has merged three of its four-member parties and five affiliates into a new party dubbed the Prosperity Party (PP), preparing itself for the upcoming election with a new program and by law. The brand-new PP has applied for registration which Soleyana confirmed to The Reporter, adding that “party registration takes a month and the election has nothing to do with the merger of PP [EPRDF]. Plus, political parties can participate in an election as long as they get their certificates by the time of candidate registration.”
More than 100 political parties are expected to run for office in the upcoming election with some like the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA).