Ethiopia Cancels Parliamentary Elections Indefinitely Over COVID-19 Disruption

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Ethiopia has canceled the country’s parliamentary elections indefinitely over disruption and concern caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Image: AP Photo/Francisco Seco

The Ethiopian government has canceled parliamentary elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus outbreak. Twenty-nine cases and no deaths have been reported in Africa’s second-most populous country.

All people who enter the country are being quarantined for 14 days,

Many regional state governments have closed their administrative borders to prevent the spread of the virus, making it difficult to continue with electoral preparations, according to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian electoral authority says that it will reschedule the elections when the coronavirus pandemic subsides, Reuters reports.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has promised to hold free and fair elections. 

He has positioned himself as a candidate whose reforms could unify a country whose previous elections have often been marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation, according to IOL.

Ahmed has worked to open up the state-run economy through economic reforms.

His political reforms have freed thousands of political prisoners, journalists and opposition activists, winning him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ethiopian parliamentary elections are typically held every five years.

In a situation where the elections are canceled for extraordinary reasons, the Ethiopian constitution gives six months to the prime minister to dissolve the parliament and announce a new timetable for the elections, according to Reuters.

Ethiopia, now a parliamentary democracy, has a history of alleged rigged elections.

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In 2015, Ethiopia’s ruling party the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front won every single parliamentary seat in the elections, according to official results. Opposition parties claimed that the election process was rigged, the BBC reported.

In 2010, the same party won 99.6 percent of the seats. The party has ruled since 1991 when it took power following a long civil war.

Ahmed became prime minister in 2018, so Ethiopia’s transition to democracy and a democratic election process is still a very new development.