By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan
Addis Abeba, September 21/2021 – The Somali region branches of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema) and Freedom and Equality Party (FEP) announced their withdrawal from the second round of the 6th national elections. This comes only days after the withdrawal of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and nine days before ballot day in the region.
The regional branches of Ezema and FEP announced their withdrawal in a joint statement released today, they highlighted the reasons behind the withdrawal and announced that both parties will join the ONLF in withdrawing from elections.
The statement read, “It was important that the 6th National Elections of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia take place and create in the Somali region an environment that is peaceful and fair for all political parties to compete equally and free from obstacles. With that aim, it is remembered that the political parties in the region reached an understanding with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).”
It continued to explain that based on the above principles, all political parties in the region reached a common understanding but complained that the understanding was broken and complaints were registered with the electoral board.
The parties recalled a request they made for the replacement of ‘stolen election materials’ with new ones and said “But the previously stolen ballot papers are going to be used in the upcoming election so the the votes will not be credible.” The parites added that their request for additional polling stations were not answered.
Furthermore the parties accused the electoral board of ‘merging’ with the structure of the government, and protested against the fact that electoral executives who stole election materials weren’t brought to justice. The parites also complained that there were no changes in the process of allocating ballot materials, the recruitment and training process of election officials, the registration and voter registration process.
Both parties claimed that elections documents and materials were being used exclusively to the benefit of the Somali region branch of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) without the knowledge of the National Electoral Board, and they that the material were “At the hands of woreda and kebele officials and are being used only by the ruling party.”
The statement additionaly explained that because of a gap in information, it is not clear how many voters cards were distributed as they are in the control of woreda and kebele officials making it difficult for candidates to assign their observers.
The statement then concluded by adding “Because of the aforementioned reasons and with the absence of a possibility for a free and fair elections, we withdraw from the elections scheduled to take place on September 30, 2021.”
The statement echoes earlier remarks by Abdi Mahdi, the chairman of the ONLF who told Addis Standard, “There is no sense in pursuing an election that has already been decided.” AS