ADDIS ABABA – Officials of National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has held talks with members of political parties and other stakeholders over the draft Electoral and Political Parties Proclamation on Wednesday.
The open discussion was called by the parliament and the chairperson of the board replied to the questions raised regarding the bill.
Most of the 137 regional and national parties which are currently active in Ethiopia took part in the discussion.
Some of the parties strongly disagreed with an introduction a provision that prevents public servants from running for election.
Article 33 sub-article b of the draft proclamation says any government employee running for election shall not get any salary or benefits nor is allowed to use any property of the government office in which he is employed.
They should at least resign from their job temporarily.
Chair of electoral board Birtukan Midekssa explained that the article is needed to make sure the neutrality of candidates.
It also prevents candidates not take advantage of public resources while running for election, she said.
– Issue of signature –
Another question that was mentioned frequently from the participant parties was the issue fetching endorsement signatures.
The bill indicates that candidates competing for a seat in the House of Representative shall bring 10,000 endorsement signatures and those competing for regional council shall bring 4000 signatures of endorsement from their intended constituencies.
Some political parties are reluctant to accept the requirement and labeled the article as a system to cast down political parties.
Birtukan said the article is there to protect the interest of the public.
According to the NEBE, up to 200, 000 people live in a constituency. “Finding a signature should not a challenge for a candidate,” she said.
“How can someone plan to compete for a seat in regional or federal houses with a very limited number of endorsements?” she responded with to the question with a rhetorical question.
– PwDs Feel underrepresented –
The other question raised during the meeting was from people with disabilities, who believed their representations among lawmakers are limited.
They demanded to have at least two parliamentary seats to voice both their concerns.
Mihret Nigusse, president for Federation of Ethiopian National Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FENAPD), mentioned other countries’ “positive experience” while asking for a reserved seat.
Close to 20 million Ethiopians live with some sort of disability, she said, adding it is very difficult to leave unrepresented in the parliament.
“While the issue is valid,” Birtukan said, “the issue needs inputs from other government offices” to decide on it.
By Sisay Sahlu