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Board downplays resistance to election law

Birtukan Midekesa, Chairwoman of the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), has downplayed the recent move made by a coalition of opposition political parties, which has rejected the recently ratified Election law of Ethiopia, The Reporter has learnt.

On Wednesday September 4, Birtukan, a former judge and political prisoner who is now leading the electoral board, briefed the media on the board’s task and current developments concerning the upcoming election as well as Sidama’s referendum to establish a regional state.

On the same week, a coalition of opposition political parties also known as the Joint Council of political parties criticized the new election law, which was recently approved by the House of People’s Representatives. The coalition has even threatened to boycott the upcoming election.

For instance, the opposition has voiced its staunch opposition against one particular aspect of the amendment, which raised the number of signatures required to be considered as a national party. The amendment raised the number of signatures to 10,000, up from 1,500, whereas the requirement for regional parties was increased to 4,000 signatures, up from its previous level of 750.

"The complaints from the political parties are something expected, especially when you have 100 something political parties," Birtukan told the media. "We can't agree on every point,” she said.

All the political parties are said to have participated during the drafting of the bill. And according to her, at least three consultation forums with the political parties were held.

"The parties can say this wasn't enough, but claiming that they didn't see it (the law) is a lie," she said.

Stressing on the time constraints, the chairwoman said that her board does not have a problem if the Parliament decides to look into the law again.

While responding to questions raised by the media regarding previous attempts to change the electoral system, she said it was under a dialogue when the election bill was drafted.

In related news, Birtukan has disclosed that the board has received complaints from political parties, alleging their members were arrested.

“Just one month ago, we have received a complaint from the Oromo Liberation Party where it said 400 of their members were arrested,” said the chairwoman. “We have managed to contact both the regional and Addis Ababa police, and have asked if their arrest is related with their political activity and we said it is wrong.” 

“We received similar complaints from the Oromo Federalist Congress as well as the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA),” adding, “As a board we will check if there are any unlawful arrests.”

The Board has also announced that it has begun works to restructure its branch offices across the country. In this regard, it has invited candidates to compete for a role to head the branch offices.

Furthermore, it was indicated that the Board is preparing to hold the Sidama referendum. It is to be recalled that, following a bloody violence which claimed the lives of dozens, the Board has announced that the referendum will be held on November, 2019.