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House grants NEBE permission to resume preparations for national elections

The House of People’s Representatives (HPR), convening on Tuesday, has passed a resolution granting the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) permission to resume its preparations and conduct the 6th national election this Ethiopian fiscal year, while the government goes ahead in opening schools nationwide.

It is to be recalled that due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ethiopia had postponed the periodic national elections for the House of Peoples’ Representatives and Regional Legislative Councils, which was slated to take place in last August.

This time, the latest decision comes a week after Minister of Health, Lia Tadesse (MD), presented her Ministry’s report and resolution that suggested the possibility of holding the election. In here report, the Minister told the House that, this time, the nation could undertake the election, amid the pandemic, taking extra-precautions in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during polling day.

After hearing that report, MPs sent the report and motion of the COVID-19 epidemic response and subsequent steps, to the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Democracy in collaboration with the Standing Committee on Women, Youth and Social Affairs for further scrutiny.

The head of the Women, Youth and Social Affairs Standing Committee, Abeba Yoseph, presented a resolution highlighting crucial issues that would help avert the spread of the virus, based on the guidelines and recommendations given by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ethiopian public Health Institute (EPHI).

Lia said that drafting and designing a new code of conduct and guidelines that take the virus into account is important. MPs on their part stressed the need for urgent precautionary measures, including continues awareness raising campaigns be undertaken, ahead of the election, at a community level.

During the debate, the experience of other countries was taken into consideration including the countries that have postponed voting. In Africa, Guinea, Burundi, Mali and Zimbabwe went forward with their elections taking various steps to reduce the risk to voters and election officials, from contracting the disease. 

With eight abstaining and one vote cast against the resolution, the House endorsed the resolution with a majority vote, giving the green light to the electoral board to resume its preparations for the election.

It is to be recalled that earlier in the month, the Tigray Regional Administration had conducted its own regional election, despite the federal government’s unwillingness to recognize the election.

In addition to the election, the House deliberated and gave its consent to the government, to open schools with proper protective measures put in place. Abeba told MPs that due to COVID-19, over 26 million students have been away from schools across the country, since March this year. She further highlighted that undergraduate studies have also been impacted.

Abeba further said that the sports sector of the nation, and as a result the country, may have to get out of continental and global competitions.