Ethiopian Parliament Approved the Contentious Electoral Bill

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House of Peoples Representative parliament has approved the revised bill of ‘political parties registration and electoral ethics,’ on Saturday.

The House approved this bill ahead of the most debated poll which will probably be held in 2020. State media EBC reported that the parliament approved the revised bill anonymously.

Some of the opposition parties have criticized the law approved by the parliament, whose all seats held by the ruling party. Reuters reported that 57 parties proposed amendments to the bill, but the ruling party, Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ignored their proposal.

One of the debated issues is the minimum signature required to form a national political party raised from 1,500 to 10,000 on the revised law. And the regional parties should have 4000 or more members to get registration. The bill reads this was made “to create an environment where political parties merge and form a front.”

Merera Gudina, the chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress, one of the senior opposition parties, told Reuters that his party’s request to lower the number of signatures was ignored. He added, “We made a lot of noise against the final draft and were strongly against some of the provisions that were put in at the last minute. It was the invisible hands of the EPRDF,”

Additionally, “the government should stop its non-inclusiveness, ” Geressu Gessa told reporters, on behalf of the opposition parties. He also requested the government to call a discussion.

When Abiy Ahmed took office after a massive protest lasted for three years, there were lots of reforms which also promised a credible multi-party election. Opposition politicians believe that the revised law approved by the parliament will disadvantage them to challenge EPRDF.

Desalegn Chane, head of National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) told Reuters, “We had suggestions which were not included in the final bill, for example, we are strongly opposed to the provision that civil servants must vacate their jobs if they are going to run for office.” He added, “this is unfair, government employees should be allowed to run.”

Whereas, the parliament amended the clause sought to give priority to women who receive equal votes with men during polls.

Ethiopia had regularly held elections since EPRDF took power in 1991 but, the 2005 election was the only competitive poll. There are concerns over insecurity which led the parliament to postpone the census which is supposed to be held this year. Do some senior politicians still ask is it possible for a country couldn’t run its national census due to insecurity, conduct a credible poll?

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