Ethiopia MPs back extending Abiy's term after election delay - International | NTV

Ethiopia MPs back extending Abiy's term after election delay


Sunday June 14, 2020


Ethiopian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a plan to keep Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in power beyond his current mandate, state media reported, after the coronavirus pandemic forced authorities to postpone elections planned for August.

The move by the House of Federation, the upper house of parliament, drew a rebuke from opposition leaders who have accused Abiy of using the pandemic to artificially extend his time in office, and analysts warned of possible protests and boycotts.

"The House of Federation has approved a decision to extend the term of all assemblies until international health institutions have deemed the threat from coronavirus to be over," the Ethiopian News Agency reported.

The lawmakers did not specify when exactly elections should happen.

But their vote was an endorsement of recommendations submitted by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, an advisory body that called for "elections to be held nine to 12 months after the coronavirus is deemed not to be a public health concern".

Abiy, the winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize who was appointed to his position in 2018, is seeking a popular mandate for wide-ranging political and economic reforms.

But Ethiopia's election board announced in March that it would be impossible to organise the polls on time because of the pandemic.

That meant elections would not happen before lawmakers' terms end in October -- a dilemma for which the constitution does not provide a clear answer.

The Council of Constitutional Inquiry held public hearings last month on possible next steps, though critics said these were insufficiently inclusive of opposition voices.

Some opposition leaders have called for a caretaker or transitional government to guide the country to elections, a suggestion Abiy dismissed as unworkable during a question-and-answer session on Monday with lawmakers.