Opposition parties statement on election postponement

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia has announced that it will be unable to conduct the 2020 national elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, the House of Peoples’ Representatives approved the election postponement. According to the constitution, the term of office of government is five years, which means that the current government’s constitutional mandate will come to an end on 10 October 2020. With that in mind, the government has tabled four proposals as potential remedies to manage the power vacuum that would occur when its current term expires on October 10. After a careful and considered review of the proposed alternatives, we, the undersigned parties, issue the following statement.

  1. The constitution makes it clear that power should be acquired only through a periodic election conducted every five years, and the term of office of a government is strictly five years. The electoral board has announced that it will not be able to conduct the election before the current government’s term of office expires. And there is no legal basis that will allow the government to legitimately remain in power past 10 October, even for a single day.
  2. We have carefully reviewed the four possible solutions proposed by the government to manage what would ultimately become a constitutional crisis. We have concluded that none of the presented options provide a legal basis to extend the mandate of the current government beyond its five-year term limit in the event that the national elections, albeit due to understandable reasons, are not held on time. The constitution does not allow for the declaration of a state of emergency specifically to postpone an election or extend a government’s term. The dissolution of parliament pursuant to Article 60 only allows for an election to be held prior to the expiry of the five-year term. This article cannot be invoked to allow term extensions beyond five years. Undertaking a constitutional amendment in order to add an article or clause that would allow the postponement of an election and/or the extension of term of office does not only negate the spirit of the constitution, it is a complex process that requires public debate and deliberation that cannot be undertaken during a pandemic in any meaningful way.
  3. The fourth option, constitutional interpretation, which is favored by the government, is not a legal and legitimate reason to postpone the election or extend the incumbent’s term. Although the House of Federation has the power to interpret the constitution, it can only do so on disputed issues contained within the constitution. Unfortunately, the constitution does not stipulate a mechanism for the postponement of elections or extension of terms of office. Furthermore, constitutional interpretation by a legislative body overwhelmingly controlled by a single party, whose members were elected through an election that we know was rigged, amounts to imposition of the will of a single party. Hence, if anything, this option erodes the legitimacy of this government even more, rather than lending it credence.
  4. It is our view that, in order to collectively and effectively combat the pandemic while preparing for the election, the best and only option is to seek a national consensus among political parties in order to legitimately fill the looming power vacuum.
  5. We would like to strongly stress that extending the term of government by any other means lacks political or legal legitimacy and could lead to a political as well as a security crisis, which the country cannot afford at a time where it needs a unified front to overcome the multifaceted challenges posed by the pandemic.

In order to find a legitimate solution for the impasse through achieving a national consensus, we believe these principles should be put into practice:

  1. The deliberation and negotiation should involve all political parties that are registered and qualified to participate in the 2020 election.
  2. The deliberation and negotiation should be facilitated by entities who do not have direct involvement in electoral affairs and do not have a vested interest in the outcome.
  3. The final agreement reached by the parties should be binding.

After years of struggle and sacrifice by the Ethiopian people, it was two years ago that we embarked on a transition that we all hoped would usher in a new era of democracy. Unfortunately, negotiations and deliberations which would be vital for a successful transition were not undertaken. Consequently, as we get closer to the election, tension has begun to rise and the political space has further narrowed, dashing the hopes for a successful transition to a democratic order through a free and fair election.

The postponement of the election due to the pandemic can be used as another opportunity to seriously deliberate, correct mistakes made over the last two years, and put the transition back on track. Therefore, we call upon all parties to seize this opportunity and sit for a roundtable deliberation to seek a legitimate political consensus on how to manage the constitutional crisis the country is facing. To this effect, we have prepared a detailed proposal and action plan in line with this recommendation, which we will present at the negotiation forum once it is convened upon acceptance.

Co-signing members of the Alliance for Democratic Federalism:

Oromo Liberation Front
Ogaden National Liberation Front
Oromo Federalist Congress
Agaw National Congress
Mocha Democratic Party
Kaffa Green Party
Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty

Peace, Freedom & Democracy for All Peoples!

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Editor’s note: This statement has been edited for style but not content.

Main photo: Opposition politicians at a Prime Minister’s Office discussion; 27 November 2018; Prime Minister’s Office

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  • These are greedy hyenas that want power at any cost. They have arrived in Ethiopia dreaming that they will share the leftover’s of TPLF. As they realise that Abiy is here to stay, they have started making noises here and there.It is good that everyone is showing its true colours when the going gets tough.I never thought though, that Merera and Gebru Asrat will be sellouts, that would ally with mercenaries like JA-war to sell Ethiopia to Egypt.The rest of the herd are known cowards roaming around with Somalian and Arab passports for the last 40 years ‘ liberating’ not a single Woreda any where in the country,despite bearing the name ‘liberation front ‘of this or that.(sic).

    Shame on you all!

  • The “Constitution”: This is a TPLF manuscript whose very foundation and concept were based on the the weakening or dismantling an entity called Ethiopia because the then lovers EPLF and TPLF were destined to create a new nation TIGRAI-TIGRIGN.

    2. “Election” shall not be used as a sure vehicle to bring all defective and aged refugee traitors to rule this humble society.

    • The constitution is a noble document based on the reality and the truth that Ethiopia is a nation of ethnic/communal groups who needed regional identity and self-rule within the context of Ethiopia as a nation with a federal government.
      I believe the Oromos, the Ogaden Somalis, and most of the other groups would agree.

  • The day Abiy shadowed Lema Megarsa against oromo people will, fail start there. The day Jawas was in jeopardy, guess that the government is streaming down fall. The day Taye starts insulting intellectuals, all know that government is in vein
    We know oromo’s Struggles is diverted toward to wrong direction. 5000 never dies for such mess. We are in mess, The worst to come, if this killing continues, the way it’s now, Abiy’s boat is about sink. There are helmsman and captains in ship not doing well.
    God save Ethiopia

  • This is the right and the most convincing recommendation for the deadlock. The four scenarios made by the government lawyer is not tenable since the constitution is very vivid on this matter. There is no loophole to fill to elongate the duration of the government beyond five year term within the framework of the constitution. So as has been said by various scholars in several instances the most plausible way out will be to forge political consensus among the various stakeholders to resolve the impasse. Abiy on the other hand is still attempting to violate the constitution since he has no regard and respect for the constitutional order.

  • 1. The electorate is the most important stakeholder of an election. as such, It should be a direct participant in any election-related negotiation through strong civil, social, cultural, humanitarian, and even religious societies. We the people, do not allow you to sideline such entities from direct negotiation through labeling them as facilitators.

    2. Your suggested solution is also unconstitutional. It also leads to a major renegotiation demand than just establishing the rules of the game for just the next election. Some will surely demand to rewrite the constitution in a certain way and others in some other way and yet some others would just want to suspend it until the next election. Any sane person would know how this would be near impossible with the so-called political elites of this society. Maybe the negotiation would a chance with just civil societies but not the 100+ parties that have made the politics their permanent livelihood for more than decades at least.

    This means your suggestion is kind of near-worthless to us except maybe
    understand the ultimate intentions of the parties listed!

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