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Controversial election bill to be tabled for approval today

The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) will hold its third special session today to vote on the contentious draft bill of the Ethiopian Electoral and Political Parties Proclamation, The Reporter has learnt.

According to the information obtained from parliament officials, the legislators will deliberate on the aforementioned proclamation, which is said to require an urgent endorsement, so as to carry-out the necessary preparation activities ahead of the upcoming elections.

Natnael Feleke, Head of Communication at Ethiopian Citizens and Social Justice Party (ECSJ) told The Reporter that his party would welcome the bill if the parliament endorses it today, at its current level. He further said that his party accepts the majority of the provisions of the draft, even though not fully perfect.

Asked if his party has concerns in the requirements parties have to fulfill in order to run for national and regional elections, Natnael said that his party has no problems with the number of members that a party should have to be eligible to stand for elections.

Like, ECSJ, the Amhara National Movement Party (ANM) sees the majority of the provisions enshrined in the proposed draft law as not affecting the party from running in the upcoming national election. However, according to Belete Molla, deputy chairman of ANMP, the party still has concerns on other critical issues, which it said were not addressed properly despite its repeated requests.

For example, the issues of representation of Amhara voters in other regional states where so many Amhara nationals reside, has been an outstanding issue his party has been debating during the discussions on the draft bill.

He indicated that besides regions where the party primarily takes part in, there are several Amhara people in Benishangul, Oromia and Dire Dawa. Hence, these Amhara people, for instance, are not properly represented in Oromia region, Belete told The Reporter.

The upcoming general election is expected to be held on May 2020. However, many people have raised their concerns in holding the elections in regards to the existing instability and unrest in various parts of the country.

It is to be recalled that due to the security problems in the country, the elections of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa as well as the National Census has been postponed by one year.

Despite the ongoing debate, the government is pushing the legislature to endorse the draft bill, which proposes broader provisions by merging the existing three separate proclamations legislating the election procedure, contesting parties as well as registration related processes.

The draft bill was first presented before the House on July 4, 2019. However, the parliamentary year ended before the draft bill was endorsed.

Currently, the Justice, Law and Democracy Standing Committee of the House is reviewing the draft Electoral and Political Parties Law of Ethiopia.

In July, the committee held three public hearing sessions whereby by various stakeholders including the Head of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) Birtukan Mideksa, leaders of political parties as well as experts took part in the debate.