Addis Abeba, September 05/2019 – Despite complaints from the Joint Council of Political Parties, representing 107 opposition parties, and a threat to boycott Ethiopia’s 2020 general elections, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) chairwoman, Birtukan Mideksa, stood by the new Electoral and Political Parties Law of Ethiopia.
In a press briefing she gave to local media on September 04, Birtukan said that three different discussions involving all stakeholders have taken place before the national parliament approved the new Electoral and Political Parties Law on August 24.
Birtukan’s statement came in the backdrop of a threat to boycott the 2020 general elections by a coalition of opposition parties. One of the main issues the opposition block complained about is the amendments in the electoral law raising the number of founding members to establish a national party 10,000, up from 1,500; and 4,000 to establish regional parties, up from 750. The opposition block are also contesting the provision in the new electoral law that should a civil servant wishes to participate in elections s/he should take unpaid leave from office.
According to Birtukan before the national parliament approved the new law, it has been discussed for three times on broad by all relevant stakeholders including the ruling coalition EPRDF, parties that returned to Ethiopia from exile and those whose leaders have been released from prison. “It is not a problem to say that these discussions were not enough, but to say “we did not see it [or] did not participate in it” is a lie because we can release minutes of each discussions including the list of political parties that participated in the discussions and points raised during the discussions,” she said.
With regard to the reforms that are taking place within the NEBE, Birtukan said that the board has now the complete list of its independent members and is working to bring the reforms and restructures to the lower levels. Works to assign some 250, 000 election implementing officials throughout the nine regional states and the two chartered cities are also underway with emphasis to separate the works of the board from wereda and kebele offices and officials, which used to be the norm in the past, raising legitimate concerns of impartiality.
The Board is also working on setting qualification requirements for election officials, which stipulates heads of election officials to hold first degrees and five years of work experiences in either of the following academic disciplines: political science, management, information technology, statistics and related fields. Those who hold masters degrees in the any of the above disciplines are expected to have four years work experiences.
Asked if the electoral board considers holding the next election without conducting census, which was postponed for the second time, as a challenge, Birtukan said that the delayed census will have no impact since the board will be conducting the election based primarily on registered voters, which is expected to be around 50 million. The board will however collect data from the central statistic authority other and other secondary sources as additional input to restructure its polling stations, which is primarily done by the 547 parliamentary constituencies. “As I mentioned repeatedly in the past, at the end of the day the numbers that matter the most are the numbers of registered voters which the board will be in possession of,” she said. AS