ADDIS ABABA – Voters’ registration deadline for the 2021 Ethiopian general elections has been extended for weeks, election officials announced late Friday.
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced its decision on Friday – the final day of its initial schedule for registering people who will cast their vote in the June 5 general election.
According to the board, challenges emanating from insecurity and logistics have been major hiccups for voters’ registration process not to go smoothly nationwide or, in the cases of the Afar and Somali regions, to begin late.
Discussion with the federal and regional governments has helped officials of the board to resolve some of the bottlenecks and managed to expedite the process over the past week.
“The registration has improved significantly in the past week,” the board’s statement said, adding polling stations in the Afar and Somali Regional States have also begun registering voters.
As of Thursday, nearly 18.5 citizens registered to vote in 41,659 polling stations, according to NEBE.
Despite the late surge, the total number of people who registered to cast ballots remains lower than the board’s expectation – which is nearly 50mln.
On Friday, its members reviewed the voters’ registration process and found out at least three main reasons for low turnout.
The board mentioned a late start in the registration process, lack of information about the process in places where registration started on time, and suspension of the process in polling stations where 1500 electorate registered as per country’s election law as reasons for the underwhelming registration.
The board has, therefore, decided to extend the deadline for the voters’ registration period in the Afar and Somali regions, where voter registration began late, for three weeks, its statement said.
Accordingly, voter registration will end in the two regions on May 14, 2021.
Election officials have also decided to extend the registration deadline in the rest of the country for two weeks. The process will conclude on May 7, 2021.
More decision expected
Election officials have not put a schedule for West Welega, East Welega, Horogdur and Kelem Welega areas of Oromia regions where there are security concerns and registration has not yet begun.
They, however, said preparations are underway to begin the registration process.
Similarly, material distribution and training of executives to conduct voter registration in the Sedal district of Benishangul-Gumuz State are underway.
Announcements will soon be made regarding when the voters’ registration process will begin in Sedal as well as other areas, such as North Shoa and Oromia Special Zones of the Amhara region, according to NEBE.
The board has also decided to open more polling stations in areas where the registration process has been suspended.