Ethiopia will hold its legislative and regional elections on June 5, 2021, the Electoral Commission announced on Friday. The elections which was scheduled to be held in 2020, was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The postponement had contributed to increased tensions between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the northern Tigray region.
Voters will have a month period to register to vote, between March 1-30, according to a calendar published on the Facebook page of the Ethiopian Electoral Commission on Friday.
The elections in Ethiopia, the second most populous country on the continent with some 110 million residents, are widely seen as a crucial step in the political transition announced by the Prime Minister.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who came to power in 2018, promised free, fair and democratic elections in 2020. The 2015 legislative and regional elections described by opposition parties as a “farce”.
At the time, The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the coalition that had ruled the country for almost 30 years, won all 547 seats in the lower house of parliament.
Elections were set for August 29, 2020, but at the end of March, the Commission announced that they would be postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic.
The federal parliament then voted to extend the terms of parliamentarians, including Abiy’s, which were due to expire in October. The decision was rejected by the Tigrayan leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated the EPRDF, and has been gradually sidelined since Abiy came to power.
The TPLF held its own regional elections in September, which were considered illegal by Addis Ababa. On November 4, the federal government launched a military operation in the region that had defied its authority for months.
There’s no precise assessment of the conflict in Tigray, but the fighting has forced more than 50,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring Sudan. The United Nations says more than 63,000 have been displaced within the region.