The Brief – 25.06.21

25 Jun 2021

Explainer: Ethiopia’s 2021 National Elections

This week, millions of voters turned out to cast their ballots in the first elections since the historic transition in 2018. Citizens exercised their democratic rights by choosing between candidates contesting seats at both the regional and national level. 

  1. Who is conducting the polls?

The polls were conducted by the independent National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), led by Chairperson, Birtukan Mideksa. NEBE is the constitutionally mandated institution tasked with running local, regional, and national elections in Ethiopia.

Since 2018, the Board has undergone root and branch reforms to ensure its independence and enhance its capacity to conduct elections in the country. These reforms have included a new parliamentary proclamation to strengthen its mandate as well as the appointment of new board members.

In the lead up to these Elections, the Board was responsible for: registering civil society organisations conducting voter education; registering political parties and their candidates; providing technical guidance and financial support to parties and independent candidates standing in elections; establishing regional and local board offices; conducting voter registration; providing permits to domestic and international observers; establishing polling stations; preparing and distributing electoral materials; recruiting and training independent poll workers; convening a regular platform to facilitate dialogue among political parties; establishing a grievances procedure for disputes and remedying these issues as per the relevant electoral laws; amongst others.

  1. Where did Elections take place?

Polls, this week, were held in constituencies across 9 of the 12 regional states and chartered cities in the country, with a second round of voting due to take place in the Afar and Somali regional states on 6 September 2021.

NEBE and the Federal Government have also agreed that elections will be conducted in the Tigray Regional State and other pending constituencies as soon as the conditions necessary to ensure the security and credibility of the vote have been established. 

  1. How many Ethiopians were expected to vote?

Following the conclusion of voter registration in May, 37.4 million Ethiopians had registered to vote in the election, representing 74.8% of all eligible voters in the country (estimated at 50 million).

The final voter turnout data from the 21 June polls is expected to be made public by the Board alongside the announcement of preliminary results. 

  1. Were the elections competitive?

Voters in this week’s elections had arguably the greatest number of choices on the ballot paper in the country’s history. 46 of the 49 legally registered parties in the country contested the election, fielding more than 9,000 candidates in the process. This included 125 independent candidates competing for seats at the national and regional levels.

  1. What was the conduct of the Election?

Polling was conducted in a remarkably peaceful and orderly fashion, with long queues at polling stations across the country as Ethiopians demonstrating their desire for democracy. 

At a number of polling stations, a lack of sufficient ballot papers and long queues resulted in the extension of voting by three hours or the reopening of polls the following day. In a handful of polling stations, incidents of intimidation against opposition party agents observing the vote were observed and are being followed up by the relevant law enforcement agencies.

These incidents notwithstanding, the polls have been regarded as credible by both the Board and other engaged stakeholders.

  1. Did observers have access to the vote?

Both domestic and international observers were able to witness all stages of the voting process – from the opening of polling stations to the conduct of the voting process through to ballot counting following the close of polls.

Both the Coalition of Ethiopian Civil Society Organisations for Elections (CECOE) and the African Union Election Observation Mission have already issued their own preliminary reports on the Election, describing them as “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Furthermore, international observers from the United States and Russian Federation joined diplomats, from close to 100 embassies and diplomatic missions, based in Addis Ababa in observing the vote.

  1. When are the first results expected? 

According to the Electoral Board, preliminary results are expected to be announced within 10 days of the vote, with the final results expected following verification of the count.


Airstrikes in Togogo and its environs

The Government of Ethiopia’s law enforcement mission in the Tigray Region, which commenced in November 2020, has notably garnered global attention. The suffering of any Ethiopians, who are victims of a situation that was not of their choosing, remains a source of pain for the Government that represents them. 

Since the launch of the Government’s operation to restore law and order in Tigray, a major challenge has been the widespread misinformation disseminated by supporters of the TPLF. This week, reports emerged of an airstrike on the village of Togogo, located north of Mekelle. In news coverage, the airstrike was described as “targeting civilians in a busy market”.

In a press briefing earlier this week, the Spokesperson of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, clarified the misinformation, stating unequivocally that the Ethiopian military does not target civilians in its operations. 

According to Colonel Getnet Adane, the airstrikes were conducted following unimpeachable intelligence that TPLF militias were gathering in the village to celebrate the anniversary of the Hawzen bombing. The Spokesperson also explained that the operation, which concluded at 3 pm local time, took place well after market activities in the village had ceased. He went on to note that these irregular militias, which are armed but not uniformed, obscure their identities as combatants by design to garner sympathy from the international community and mobilise support from the local population when defeated on the battlefield. 

He concluded that although these actions callously place law-abiding citizens in the Region at risk, the ENDF will continue to exercise restraint by leaning on its use of superior technology and local intelligence in operations aimed at identifying, apprehending, or neutralising TPLF elements in the Region.


The Brief is a bi-weekly publication from the Ethiopian Embassy in London covering current affairs in Ethiopia.

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