Responding to questions from members of the House of People's Representatives (HoPR) this morning, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed defended his administration's decision to hold Ethiopia's next general elections in May 2020. The Prime Minister appeared at the parliament which was convened to pass the motion presented to both Houses by President Sahle-Work Zewde outlining the government's direction for the 2019/2020 fiscal year.
His response about the election came amidst flurry of concerns raised by increasing numbers politicians, both from the ruling EPRDF and the opposition block, political analysts and observers of Ethiopian politics on casting doubts on whether or not the country can afford to hold the coming election and avoid the possibilities of post-election violence.
The same concern was raised by MP Mateows Gelebo this morning who questioned the administration's preparedness and ability to hold a peaceful election when there are conflicts that arises in connection with the political change over the last one year and have not been resolved yet; where there are increasingly polarized views between some regional states in connection with unresolved identity and border issues; when there is an increasing proliferation of arms smuggling and distribution; when there are armed people acting both individually and in groups in various places of the country and causing havoc on peaceful; when citizens right to move from places to places continued to be in grave danger; when political parties have failed to conduct administrative restructuring based on the new electoral law, among others.
"With regard to the election, what this House needs to take into consideration is that whether it is this year's election or the next, in Ethiopia it is impossible to hold an election without problems and free of challenges. Democracy is an exercise and a culture and it is so when we exercise it, when we do it, not we we run away from it," PM Abiy said. adding "if we line up reasons and say we cannot do it now, but [we can] next time, there will be many more problems."
He further defended the decision saying that although the elections will not be free of challenges, holding the it is useful in many ways than few. He added that in the past the Ethiopian people shown how to vote for the parties of their choice than resort to post election violence. However, he all stakeholders including the media, civil society organizations and competing political parties need to discharge their responsibilities to make the election a success. "Even though it's impossible to say we can hold an election which is free of challenges, it is possible to hold a successful election," he said.
PM Abiy also dismissed as "unacceptable" opposition parties' objection of the new elections and political parties proclamation citing the provision which raised the number of signatures parties are required to collect to register as national political party to 10,000, up from 1,500. The proclamation also raised regional this requirement for regional parties to 4,000 signatures, up from 750. AS