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Health Ministry gives greenlight to election

The Ministry of Health of Ethiopia has recommended that the postponed general elections can be conducted given the public’s awareness in the means of transmission of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the capabilities created in the country to produce masks and hand sanitizers.

 It is to be recalled that Ethiopia decided to postpone the national elections because of the coronavirus pandemics through a constitutional interpretation, overseen by the House of the Federation (HoF). While the proceedings by the Council of Constitutional Interpretation (CCI) received help from various experts and members of the constitutional drafting council two decades ago, critics were disappointed because of the lack of dissenting voices during the hearings as well as the lack of opposition voices in the decision process.

Presenting this recommendation to the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) on Friday, September 18, 2020, Liya Tadesse (MD) Minister of Health, said that the country has also enhanced the capacities of health institutions in terms of better testing and treatment of COVID-19.

This recommendation comes following the expiry of the five-month long state of emergency that was announced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Citing that some countries have already held elections during the pandemic and some have postponed, the Minister indicated that there are enough lessons from across Africa to help us prepare for elections in Ethiopia.

The fact that the spread of the pandemic in our country is minimal compared to projections, the public has a better understanding of the means of transmission, availability of better scientifically proven means to prevent the virus’ spread, and the availability of local capacity to produce masks and sanitizers, are said to place the country in a better position to hold the elections.

But two conditions need to be fulfilled to conduct the national elections, according to the recommendation by the Ministry of Health. The first is preparing electoral code of conduct, regulation and directives taking COVID-19 into consideration so that better preparations can be made. Second, the need for special treatment of areas of high prevalence of the virus should be taken into account.

In addition to recommending holding the elections by taking the necessary precautions, the Ministry also suggested economic and social activities be restored with proper precautions taken to prevent the spread of the virus. Hence, such gatherings should allow enough ventilation, maintain social distance, mandatorily use face masks, enforcing frequent hand washing and other necessary measures.

Even though the discussion in the HPR was to see whether there is a means to conduct the postponed general elections in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, some dissenting members of the parliament said that the elections should not be conducted due to a lack of conducive environment in the country to conduct any election.

The HPR’s Social Affairs Standing Committee and the Legal, Justice and Democracy Standing Committee are tasked with taking these recommendations and come up with a motion on whether to hold the elections or not.