JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ethiopia will hold its delayed parliamentary elections on June 21, the country’s national electoral board announced Thursday, a vote that determines who will be prime minister.
There will be no voting in the embattled Tigray region.
The elections were to have taken place on June 5, but were postponed earlier this month after officials said the electoral board needed more time to print ballot papers, train polling staff and register voters.
According to the revised schedule, voting will take place after June 21 in some areas because of security concerns and to allow more time for voters to register, the electoral board said.
Ethiopia twice postponed the elections last year citing the coronavirus pandemic and logistical issues.
The delays heightened tensions with regional leaders in Tigray, who disputed the legitimacy of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government after its mandate expired in October. Tigray's leaders held their own unauthorized poll in that region, provoking the government.
Abiy ordered troops into the region in early November, after regional Tigrayan forces allegedly attacked a federal army base. Six months later, thousands have been killed in the conflict in Tigray, which holds 6 million people. Reports of atrocities have led U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to allege that “ethnic cleansing” is taking place in western Tigray.
On Thursday the U.S. senate passed a resolution condemning “all violence against civilians” in Tigray and calling for the withdrawal of troops from neighboring Eritrea, which also sent troops to the region.
Abiy, who came to power in 2018 and introduced a range of sweeping democratic reforms, has promised that the poll will be free and fair. He will remain prime minister if his party wins a majority of seats in Ethiopia’s parliament.
But his government is struggling to contain ethnic violence in several regions of Ethiopia and the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress has pledged to boycott the vote, saying its faces harassment by the authorities. Several of its leaders are still in prison following a wave of violent unrest sparked last summer by the killing of an Oromo musician.
The European Union has said it would not observe the vote after the government failed to guarantee the independence of its mission and allow it to import communications equipment. In response, Ethiopia said external observers “are neither essential nor necessary to certify the credibility of an election.”
Earlier this month, the electoral board said it had registered 31.7 million voters out of a target of 50 million of Ethiopia's 110 million people.
Andrew Meldrum, The Associated Press