Ethiopian lawmakers voted to extend their terms until elections that were postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak are held.
The House of Federation voted for the extension that also enables Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to continue his rule of the Horn of Africa nation. The decision ensures Ethiopia will avoid a constitutional crisis, given the mandate of the current administration was set to expire on Oct. 10.
Elections that had been scheduled for August will now be held within a year after health officials have declared the virus no longer poses a threat to safe balloting, Fana Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing proceedings in the upper house.
Abiy on June 8 urged opposition members to be patient amid concerns that the postponement of the election could stoke political tensions. The vote is seen as a test of the popularity of Abiy, who came to power in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for efforts to end hostilities with neighboring Eritrea.
Reforms initiated by Abiy have emboldened some political groups to call for greater regional autonomy, triggering unrest among the country’s main ethnic groups. The political instability could threaten moves to open up the economy of the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest population.
The reaction of Ethiopia’s opposition parties to the extension of the government’s mandate will be key to the country’s stability, Crisis Group Senior Analyst for Ethiopia William Davison, said in an emailed comment before the lawmakers voted. The opposition Tigray People’s Liberation Front said earlier this week it opposed the postponement of the elections and vowed to go ahead with regional polls.
“If they reject this plan to extend the federal and regional governments’ terms until delayed elections are held, protests or election boycotts could become a reality, reducing the chances of successful competitive polls in 2021,” Davison said. “That would mean more political instability and undermine the planned democratic transition.”
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