Chatham House hosts webinar on Ethiopia’s upcoming elections

8 Feb 2021

On 3rd February, Chatham House’s Africa Programme hosted a webinar on Ethiopia’s upcoming elections, which are scheduled to take place on 5th June 2021.

 Titled “Ethiopia’s Elections: Context, Challenges, and Prospects for Pluralism”, panellists at the virtual event discussed preparations for the upcoming polls, whether the Federal Government will be able to deliver secure, free, and fair elections under the current conditions, and the priority issues likely to be raised during the campaign period. They also reflected on the long-term trajectory of Ethiopia’s democratic transition.

The Panellists were Birtukan Mideksa, Head, National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), Dr. Gedion Timothewos, Attorney General of Ethiopia, Professor Berhanu Nega, Chairman, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA), and Professor Beyene Petros, Chairman, Ethiopian Social Democratic Party (ESDP).

Birtukan Mideksa said the upcoming election would be a substantial national undertaking where 50 million people are expected to register for voting in all of the regions in Ethiopia. “All of the political parties will have equal access to public facilities and the media, although the number of candidates, gender, and disability issues will be considered in the latter,” she said.

“Changes in nominating and appointing board members of NEBE and increment of engagements with civic society would pave the way to a fair and free election,” she added.

Given the legal and institutional level reforms that his office took so far, Attorney General Dr. Gedion on his part said, the upcoming election is a step on the long-term view to building a democratic system in the country.

Training is being provided to the law enforcement personnel to adopt the position of restraint and moderation during the election period, he said, adding that it would be the “most genuine election we have entertained so far”, although it might not be flawless.

Professor Beyene acknowledged the various reforms and Prime Minister Abiy’s initiatives that have helped competing political parties to have a say in different matters.

He also cited issues related to financing elections, unpaid civil servants and candidacy, and lack of updates on election monitors and observers as challenges that he has observed.

Professor Berhanu Nega, on his part, said the upcoming election would be “our chance to see a democratically elected government that is expected to entertain huge national questions in a civilized manner, without resorting to violence.”

“If we can succeed to have a genuine election in Ethiopia, the implication will be great to the rest of the continent and the future generation of Ethiopians,” he added.

At the conclusion of the webinar, Ambassador Teferi expressed his gratitude to the distinguished panellists for their insights and thanked Chatham House for organising “this important and timely platform for debate”.

Noting that the upcoming historic elections represent “a critical juncture in the modern history of Ethiopia”, the Ambassador affirmed that the Ethiopian Government would continue to prioritise the safety and security of its citizens across the country as the elections loom.

“By ensuring law and order in all regions of Ethiopia, the Government will uphold its duty to establish the peace necessary for a secure pre-and post-election environment,” the Ambassador said, adding that “Alongside these activities, the Government, together with its partners, will ensure that the Election Board receives all the support it requires to fulfil its constitutional mandate.”

The Ambassador also called upon partners in the international community, including in the UK, to stand in solidarity with Ethiopia in the challenges to come.

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