Ethiopian Lawmakers to Seek Constitutional Interpretation over General Election

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian legislators have approved today a bill that proposes seeking constitutional interpretation on how to resolve general elections conandrum.

The national electoral board of Ethiopia or NEBE decided to postpone the election after its activities hampered by COVID-19 fallout.

After accepting NEBE’s verdict, the parliament last week directed its Legal, Justice and Administration Affairs Standing Committee to come up with a resolution to govern the general elections based on the country’s constitution.

The Constitution requires ‘‘elections for a new House [to] be concluded one month prior to the expiry of the House’s term’’.

The delay has brought a legitimacy question over all incumbent governments and officials in the country when their term ends on Oct 10, 2020, while creating a vacuum on how to hold the election.

Proposed solutions

During today’s session, Abebe Gedebo, Chairperson of the committee, has put forward four options to resolve the deadlock with what he said is “have constitutional background” and enable the country to hold the 6th general election.

The options are dissolving the parliament, declaring a state of emergency, constitutional amendment, and seeking constitutional interpretation from House of Federation.

Abebe said the committee decided to take on constitutional interpretation option as “the most viable one, without trespassing the decrees of the constitution in order to combat the consequences of the #COVID-19 pandemic to the full scale”.

The resolution, however, faced stern opposition from some members of parliament who said it needs more political solution.

Leaders of opposition political parties and civil organizations should have a say in this, contends one parliament member.

“The best option is political solution because the recommended solution violates the constitution and could impose a clear danger to the state,” he said.

The presenter of the resolution, however, says the political solutions contradict the constitution and claims the constitutional interpretation resolution as “constitutional and has support of other decrees from the constitution itself”.

The House approved the resolution to seek interpretation from the house of federation with a majority vote while 25 MPs voting against.

The members of parliament, especially TPLF-MPs, opposed not only the latest option but also the election postponement arguing that the spread of the virus in Ethiopia had not reached the pandemic status.

– TPLF’s Decision –

The ruling party in Tigray region, Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), decided to go on holding general elections in the region – going against the decision of the country’s parliament.

Tigray ruling party’s politburo announced its decision on Monday with region’s council – dominated the party – approving it today.

The national electoral board which carries out elections in country says it has not been informed about the decision.

The TPLF was a dominant partner in the now-dissolved Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, which governed the country for 28 years.

The other members of the EPDRF merged to form Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s new Prosperity Party.

The TPLF accuse Abiy of attempting to dismantle the ethnic-based federal constitution and warns of political and constitutional crisis if elections are not held before the government’s term in office legally ends in September.

But the head of electoral body Birtukan Demeksa told state TV that any attempt to hold elections without its authorization would be “unconstitutional and illegal”.

By Staff, Agencies