Update: Electoral Board Sets Aug. 16 as Tentative Date for 2020 Polls

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s upcoming parliamentary election will be held on August 16, according to the electoral board tentative schedule made public on Wednesday.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has made its schedules known for the first time during a consultative meeting with various political parties, civic organizations, and other stakeholders.

The schedule, presented by Chairwomen of the board Birtukan Mideksa, pencils the election date in August 16, while proposing voters registration to take place from April 7 to May 8, 2020.

The document also suggests for the official announcement of the voting results at the constituency level to be made from August 17 to August 21, and for the electoral board to communicate its confirmed results between August 17 and August 26, 2020.

The board also said that the 2020 election will be conducted based on 1995 electoral mapping and parties will compete for 547 parliamentary seats.

There have been growing calls among political parties to have the elections, which are normally held in May every five years to be postponed until next year.

Chairperson of the board, however, said extending the election timetable beyond August would be unconstitutional.

The election schedule has attracted criticism from some corners of the opposition parties saying the timing coincides with Ethiopia’s rainy season and may decrease voters’ turnout. At least 50 million Ethiopians are expected to vote in the 2020 national elections.

The schedule is “unfavorable” to say the least, said Lidetu Ayalew, Leader of Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP).

It will be during the country’s coldest season and could hamper the turnout, he said, adding: “The decision overlooks sacrifices made to see changes in the country and fails to understand the psychological impact it might have”.

Lidetu said he is all for postponing the election until the government manages to create a national consensus on multitudes of issues and get a handle of the security problems in the country.

Alemu Sime of the ruling Ethiopian Prosperity Party refuted Lidetu’s claim and said the country can hold the election “within the stated period peacefully”.

Last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said holding the election on time that is the only way of transitioning the country to a democracy.

“On the schedule, I am not sure whether it is May or June, because the schedule will be declared by the election board but I think we will conduct an election this year because it is a constitutional mandate,” Abiy told reporters last week in South Africa.

“There might be lots of challenges, not only logistics but also peace and security … It is better for Ethiopians and for Ethiopian parties to conduct the election on time in a very peaceful and democratic manner,” he added.

Ethiopia has regularly held elections since 1995 but, with the exception of the 2005 election, no election has been competitive.

By Sisay Sahlu