ADDIS ABEBA – Tigray region’s Council has voted for its ruling party’s decision to hold elections – going against the central government’s decision to delay national polls due to COVID-19.
“The Tigray State Council decided to hold regional elections on time,” said Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of the region, in a statement issued on Friday afternoon.
The declaration which ignores the electoral board’s postponement of nationwide balloting could put TPLF on a collision course with the central government.
National elections, which had been scheduled for August and were being touted as a key test of Abiy’s reforms, were postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, Ethiopian lawmakers whose mandate was set to end in October voted to extend their terms until the time health authorities determine that the coronavirus is no longer a threat to public health. Ethiopia has recorded a total of 2,915 cases of COVID-19 and 47 deaths, to date.
In a video message to Ethiopians, PM Abiy indicates on the same day that the extension of the term by the parliament is not a handout.
“But a breathing space to fight the virus and contain its overall impact on the people of Ethiopia,” he said, adding that the level of COVID-19 could rise as the country go deep into the ongoing rainy season.
He advised all Ethiopians including politicians “to work together in an effort to withstand the challenges” the country is facing as a result of the pandemic well as “what’s to come post-COVID-19”.
Abiy pledged to work with competing parties during the year. The video message does not mention or respond to today’s decision made by the TPLF’s lad council in Tigray.
Abiy took power in Africa’s second-most populous country in 2018 and has since rolled out a series of reforms allowing greater freedoms in what had long been one of the continent’s most repressive states.
But the changes have made it possible for long-held grievances against decades of harsh rule to resurface, and emboldened regional power-brokers to seek more power for their ethnic groups.