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Voting for New State Taking Place in Southern Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA – Voters in 6 zones and 5 special districts in southern Ethiopia are casting their ballots today in a referendum to form a new regional state.

The poll comes nearly six months after the House of Federation granted the referendum on self-rule to 11 districts and zones, currently under the Southern Nations, and Nationalities People Region (SNNPR) administration.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) finalized preparations for the voting with the delivery of materials and equipment to polling stations on Sunday.

The poll began this morning in 3,770 polling stations including two set up inside IDP centers.

The NEBE is conducting the referendum in Gamo, Gofa, Wolayta, Gedio, Konso, and South Omo Zones; as well as Burji, Amaro, Derashe, Basketo, and Alle special districts.

Despite some irregularities and a shortage of electoral materials such as ballot papers in some stations, the board said the poll is taking place peacefully.

“Corrective measures are being taken in polls where shortages of materials occurred,” it said. Two suspects have been arrested in one polling station in the Wollita zone for violating electoral law.

More than 3 million registered voters are expected to cast their votes to decide on the formation of a new region. The polls will remain open until 06:00 p.m. local time.

Preliminary results are scheduled to be revealed at the polling stations for five consecutive days as of Feb 7, 2023. The Electoral board will announce the final result on February 15, 2023.

The new region will be named Southern Ethiopia if the referendum received approval from the majority of voters.

Ethiopia has a federal system with 11 regions – of which. two were formed recently after consecutive referendums.

The Sidama, formerly a zone in SNNPR, transformed into a Sidama Regional State in June 2020. A year and a half later, five zones and one special district also formed the South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Regional state.

[Featured image: SNNPRs Communication Bureau]