ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister faces an extra year or more in office after lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend their mandates and hold the national election nine to 12 months after health authorities determine it’s safe.
Some in the opposition have objected to delaying the vote for the coronavirus as no one knows when the pandemic will end or whether the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will seek further postponements.
Wednesday’s decision is necessary “as long as COVID-19 continues to pose a health risk,” the Ethiopian News Agency quoted lawmakers with the upper house of parliament as saying. They approved the recommendation of the Constitutional Inquiry Committee that had sought a solution as mandates were set to end in October. The vote had been scheduled for August.
Ethiopia’s election will be the first chance for Africa’s second most populous country to weigh in on Abiy’s dramatic political reforms since he took office in 2018. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year but has faced growing intercommunal violence, demands by some ethnic groups or regions for more autonomy and allegations of new abuses by security forces.
The election delay is expected to cause more friction with a more outspoken opposition.
Ethiopia’s electoral board already has said it can’t register voters because of the pandemic.
The country as of Wednesday had more than 2,300 COVID-19 cases.