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New parliamentary term to kick-off amid tension

In what many expect to be a contentious move that can escalate the ill-feeling between the Tigray Regional State and the Federal government, the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) and House of Federation (HoF) will hold their 6th year joint session on Monday, October 5, 2020.

President Sahlework Zewde will deliver an opening remark focusing on government’s key activities in this Ethiopian fiscal year. Her remarks will highlight major legislations that will be endorsed in the House, as per the duty and responsibility of the House enshrined in the constitution.

The House of Federation will also hold its regular session on October 6 and 7, 2020 according to the information obtained from both the HOF and HPR.

However, this year’s parliamentary session would kick-off amid the controversy and standoff between the federal government and the Tigray administration, led by Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). The party has repeatedly rejected the extension of the parliament’s term.

TPLF has 38 seats in the lower chamber of the House. Thus, the current parliament’s term, which will officially be opened on Monday, will last for one more year with at least 38 empty seats out of a total of 547 seats.

Speaking to Tigray Mass Media Agency, Asmelash Wolde Sellassie, executive member of TPLF, said the region will not comply with laws, directives, and regulations, among others, to be enacted by the federal government after its current term in office comes to an end on October 5, 2020.

Asmelash, who was the former chief government whip, said that on October 05, 2020 the constitutional term limit for both the HPR and HoF, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and the Council of Ministers (CoM) he chairs; will have come to an end, rendering the incumbent’s stay in power “constitutionally illegal.” An excerpt from Asmelash’s interview was also published on TPLF’s official Facebook page.

The Tigray regional state has unilaterally conducted the 6th election for the regional council, which was subsequently formed on September 24, 2020. The newly formed council has also appointed TPLF’s Chairman Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) as the regional president.

If TPLF led Tigray regions insist in its protest of the extended term of the legislative body, millions of people in Tigray will not be represented in the legislative chamber until the upcoming General election.

This also is expected to prompt the parliament into considering a disciplinary action regarding the 38 absentee MPs, who have been representing Tigray during the past five years of the 5th parliamentary term.

According to the current HPR Working Procedures and Members Code of Conduct (Amendment) any member representative has to attend the parliamentary meetings during regular and other urgent sessions, called by the House Speaker.

However, it is not clear what kind of disciplinary or administrative measures, the Houses could take against TPLF members if they refuse to recognize the extension of the current term.