Ethiopians will head to the polls as early as 6:00 o’clock on Monday to cast their votes for 12 hours. Some 37,408,600 voters have been registered for this year’s general elections, accounting for 74.8 percent of the original plan set by the Board.
However, people residing in 64 Parliamentary and 133 regional council constituencies, out of a total of 641 constituencies, will not vote in this round of polls as they would have to wait until the second round of voting in September.
The sixth general elections are slated to take place on Monday, June 21, 2021, after repeated extensions and complications forced the delay of different electoral operations. Like a domino effect, the delay in candidate registration pushed voters’ registration further, finally resulting in the extension of the polling date.
With challenges plaguing the election process since its inception in its early days in 2019, it has been a long and bumpy road to arrive at this stage of the election. Initially extended due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, the election was one of the immediate causes for the conflict in Tigray.
Since the decision by the government to postpone the sixth general elections because of the pandemic, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) decided not to recognize PM Abiy Ahmed’s administration. The ensuing feud that lasted for months led to the war, which became the center of global attention.
After the Board received the greenlight from the House of the Federation (HoF) and the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HoPR) based on the recommendations from the Ministry of Health, it announced the election schedule replacing the first scheduled date.
The Board’s headache during this preparation period was the lack of cooperation from the federal and regional governments with regards to transportation and security affairs. On the other hand, candidates have also been detained, consuming the time and energy of the Board, which was working with security forces across the nation to release the candidates.
Birtukan Mideksa, the chairwoman of the Board highly denounced the detention of candidates and classified it as “highly unacceptable.”However, the detentions could not be stopped.
Although regional and federal governments are legally mandated to cooperate with the Board in areas where it demands cooperation, regional governments were not responsive to its demands. However, after frequent meetings regional governments had with the Board, in the presence of PM Abiy Ahmed, logistical challenges were resolved for voter registration and equipment transportation for polling day.
In this regard, some 9,000 vehicles are being used to transport election equipment from the center to constituencies across the nation.
But the biggest challenge to date is Prosperity Party’s dominance and the influence it has on opposition political parties.
Speaking during a consultation meeting with political parties at Skylight Hotel on June 18, 2021, Birtukan Mideksa complained about the detention of candidates in the Southern Part of Ethiopia.
“Shame on you, Southern region,” she said adding, “Political parties have not faced any challenge like that of the South.”
During this consultation session, representatives of opposition political parties complained about the treatment from local administration officials during campaigns. Opposition parties also indicated that the silence period is not being respected, especially by members of the ruling party, who are going into every house and intimidating the electorate to vote for their party. They are also said to have held farmers hostage by using fertilizers and seed provision.
In addition, voter identification cards are also said to have been collected by members of the Prosperity Party in various parts of the country.
Apart from this, packed equipment are said to have been opened in some constituencies before the election day, which Birtukan said is illegal and the proper legal course would proceed to rectify that.