The National Election Board of Ethiopia announced Tuesday that it would postpone Ethiopia’s upcoming general election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The board had planned to conduct the election in August.
The planned elections marked a transition towards democratic stability in Ethiopia. Ethiopia experienced a period of ethnic tension and unrest throughout 2016 and 2017. The country declared a state of emergency in 2016 after clashes between protesters and the Ethiopian government left an estimated 500 citizens dead. The UN condemned these killings in 2016.
In 2017 citizens from the Oromia region demanded the release of political prisoners from the Ethiopian government. Under the guidance of prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, authorities arrested an estimated 26,000 citizens as political prisoners in response to protests. Under continued pressure, Desalegn resigned in April of 2018. Abiy Ahmed filled the prime minister role in Desalegn’s vacancy.
The UN praised Abiy Ahmed for his reforms favoring human rights. Under Ahmed’s leadership, the country has granted new rights to refugees and passed laws punishing discrimination and hate speech.
The postponed August election would have been the country’s first referendum on Ahmed’s prime minister role and a move towards democratic cooperation after years of authoritarian policies.
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