The House of Federation has passed a decision today, June 10 2020, to extend the term of federal and regional parliaments until the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is no longer a public health threat to the country.
The bill that was approved with a majority of 114 votes, 4 oppositions and one absentee also determined that the election will be scheduled within a period of nine months to a year after local and international health organizations declare the pandemic is no more a health risk.
The newly approved amendment of article 54 allows the current federal and state councils to remain in power until holding an election is possible settling the constitutional crisis that had been unfolded created by the need of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to postpone the upcoming election due to the effects of the virus and the restrictions on public gatherings imposed by the state of emergency that would be an obstacle for the Board.
The sixth general elections were set to be held by the end of August 2020. However, following the recommendations for the extension of the general elections, the parliament referred the question of postponing the election and constitutional interpretation to the House of Federation to decide the fate of the upcoming election.
The Council of Constitutional Inquiry (CCI), an institution established by the constitution to give professional support to the House of the Federation regarding constitutional interpretations, then held a series of discussion to decide over the fate of a national poll which, according to the constitution, was supposed to be held at the end of this Ethiopian year.
The Council, chaired by Chief Justice Meaza Ashenafi, earlier this week passed its recommendations to the House of Federations to hold the general elections within 9 to 12 months after the Ministry of Health, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and the science community are assured that the pandemic no longer poses a risk to public health and the parliament approves their suggestion.
The Federation in its second regular meeting this year held today adopted the recommendations of the council, gave a constitutional interpretation and extended the term of the state and regional parliaments and postponed the election setting a precedent and a new constitutional law that will govern future similar possibilities too.
This move by the state to postpone the election has been facing strong opposition as some considered it as an attempt by the government to grab power unconstitutionally.
Last week, the Central Committee of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) released a statement denouncing the proposal of the Electoral Board to postpone the national elections and affirming its decision to hold elections at the regional level.
Keria Ibrahim, a member of the central committee of TPLF, resigned from her position as the speaker of the House of Federation on Monday, June 8, 2020 describing the measure “unconstitutional”.