Ethiopia has confirmed stalling its general elections by at least nine months, citing the risks posed by Covid-19. General elections were supposed to be held in Ethiopia on 29 August 2020 to elect officials to the House of Peoples Representatives, but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic Regional and municipal council elections were also planned to be held at the same time around the country In May the sitting House of Representatives voted to postpone the election until 2021. The country has nearly 4,000 confirmed cases and has had 61 deaths.
The decision, which was approved by Ethiopian lawmakers, could prolong prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s mandate by up to a year, depending on the country’s ability to contain its worsening outbreak, which has risen by 300% in confirmed cases over the past two weeks.
In response, opposition parties have slammed the decision which they see as the ruling Prosperity Party exploiting the pandemic to ensure the government’s survival. Opposition leaders are adamant coronavirus or not, the government will lose its legitimacy if it attempts to stretch its stay in power beyond the first weeks of October.
Abiy Ahmed had been lauded for ground-breaking initiatives to usher in political reform in a country with a long history of authoritarian rule. After years of mass anti-government uprisings helped his appointment as premier in April 2018, tens of thousands of political prisoners were freed and opposition parties were decriminalized. These efforts contributed significantly to his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize award. In December 2019, the ruling party merged several ethnic group-led parties to create the Prosperity Party as a successor to the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front).