Addis Abeba, June 24/2021 – The twice postponed Sixth National Elections took place in some parts of the country yesterday June 21, 2021. Elections were first scheduled for May 2020, the date was changed for August 2020 before being indefinitely postponed by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 in the country in March 2020.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) then suggested the possibility of holding elections and a new date was set for June 5, 2021. Before the new date was set major opposition political parties like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) withdrew from elections in objection to what they described as harassment and intimidation by the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) also complained of similar treatment by the regional administration of Somali region and the regional branch of the ruling party and threatened to boycott elections if demands were not met.
The electoral process was distorted by scandals, ranging from irregularities in both candidates and voter registration processes to cancelling of polling stations to the electoral board dispute with Harari region. In Somali region, 7 constituencies were tainted by voter registration irregularities. In Addis Abeba, opposition parties complained of irregularities in the process, and in Oromia residents complained of forced registration. Days before elections, NEBE cancelled and postponed voting in a number of constituencies across six regions.
In various areas of Addis Abeba, voters started lining up early in the morning. Lines were long and there was a huge turnout in all polling stations Addis Standard visited. Some polling stations opened on time and others were behind schedules keeping voters waiting as it was heavily raining.
Yeka sub city, woreda 7, polling station 06 opened on time, and all party observers were present. The polling station witnessed one of the biggest turnout in the city as a huge number of voters were present from the wee hours of the morning until the closing of the poll at 9 PM. There, Henok Negusa spoke to Addis Standard and said, “I am very happy that an election is being held. I think things will change after the election because we are going to have an elected government and we’ll see the next step together.”
But the situation at Nifas Silk-Lafto sub city, woreda 3, polling station 05 Elections was different as the polling station opened late due to “a mix up in ballot papers that belonged to another polling station,” the pollster told voters. Despite the mix up and the late opening the polling station witnessed senior government officials as well as Berhanu Nega leader of the opposition party Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), voting in it. The turnout and line was no different from that of previous polling stations Addis Standard visited but priority was given to those who had children, elderly and pregnant women.
In Kirkos sub city, woreda 7, polling stations 04 and 05 the president of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde voted and the head of the African Union (AU) observation mission the former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo and his team were present at the polling station. Like all polling stations in Addis Abeba that Addis Standard visited, polling stations in Kirkos sub city were crowded as voters lined up to cast their ballots under harsh weather conditions.
Cities and towns in West Arsi and East Shewa zones of Oromia regional state witnessed a low turnout. Polling stations in West Arsi and East Shewa zones were half full, lines were thin and polling station executives were providing staff with training inside polling stations as voters were lined up outside.
Tiruwork Behailu is among the residents of Ziway who were lined out to cast their vote early in the morning in the pouring rain. “I am very happy to be here. Everything is going well. The coordinators are doing a great job.” she said, adding, “May the outcome be what is best for our country.” Candidates running for the ruling PP, Ezema and New Generation party were competing for a seat in the regional council and House of People’s Representatives (HoPR).
In Shashamane, where candidates from the ruling PP, Ethiopian Social Democratic Party & independents were competing, Addis Standard visited the police station set up in Dida Boke green development center. At Ganda Dida Boqqee, 05 Polling station, Mohammed Hussien told Addis Standard “This is the second time that I am participating in the national election. I hope this election brings peace and stability.
In Bishan Guracha town, voters were waiting in a rather long line at the City administration 01,02 polling station. Chale Abdullahi is a resident of the camp for IDPs who fled the 2016-2017 border dispute in Somali region. “We were told to come here, we don’t exactly know why.” Another resident of Bishan Guracha told Addis Standard that she is happy with the many options of political parties to vote for.
Alternatively, in the Oromia Region Finifine Special Zone and North Shewa Zone, the turnout was much higher. Voters were waiting at polling stations before 6 AM. In Legetafo polling station two tents were full of voters and a lot of others were lined up outside the tents. Enroute to
At Miqawa polling station in North Shewa Zone Aleletu Woreda, 60 year old Asnake Dabe was voting for the Sixth time. He said ’’I got here by 5 AM and cast my vote by 6 AM. The process was free.’’
North Shewa Zone in Amhara regional state, Addis Standard observed a huge turnout of voters in Anegolela Tera Woreda and Debre Berhan city. Like most of the other polling stations, people were lined up densely, mostly without face masks. Addis Standard spoke to voters, observers and observed that more than one voter entered into the voting section. Most voters in the Amhara region expressed optimism about the outcome of the election and were happy with the process.
In bordering areas of Oromia and Amhara regions, Addis Standard observed road blockages by security officials which interrupted the day’s activity of the residents. Addis Standard staff were harassed by security officials and volunteering youth who prohibited passage and taking pictures despite having the permit badge from the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).
Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region
In Mareko woreda of the SNNPR, Filagot Neway, was waiting in line to cast his vote for a party who he hopes will solve the issues related to autonomy in his woreda and maintain the peace and sovereignty in Ethiopia. “Our community forgone developmental demands for decades while pursuing autonomy,” Filagot said, adding “We hope the violence and displacement is put to an end after the election.”
Jebeso Getiso is a candidate of Ethiopia Social Democratic Party, running for regional council against Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), Prosperity Party (PP), National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), Enat Party and Independents in the Meseqanna Mareqo 02 constituencies. Describing the situation in Ilala Gebiba Kebele at Shirinto 01 and 02 polling stations, Jebeso told Addis Standard that the independent candidates were harassing the agents of his party who were observing the election. He also accused the NEBE executives of complying with the Independents candidates who according to him are affiliated with the ruling party, PP. “The independent candidates were intermingling with voters who were waiting in line and advertising their symbols to voters on election day.” he said adding, “That created a fiasco that forced the regional special police to put it under control in many polling stations.”
Teshale Alemu, another candidate of Ethiopia Social Democratic Party who is running for a seat in House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) corroborated Jebeso’s statement and said, “There was a lot of chaos at polling stations caused by independent candidates.” He also explained that their repeated attempts to file complaints at the NEBE via the hotline 778 were in vain. He said that the agents of their party were forced to leave the polling station.
In Butajira town in the Gurage zone, Kedir Lule who was participating in the national elections for the second time was very optimistic about the election and was happy for its peaceful undertaking. On the other hand, election executives at polling station 04 in Dubai sefer told Addis Standard that they were threatened by officials of the town including the mayor, head of the PP party office and police officers. “They were intimidating us to tell people to vote for PP” Akmel Workichu said, adding “This created agitation and conflict among the voters.” Bedru Wendi who is also an NEBE executive said, “We have tried our best to resist the continued intimidation and notified the board.”
The Board said it requires special assistance from the state and the federal governments to conduct the election in two constituencies in Gambella regional state.Three other constituencies in the Gambella region were cancelled by the NEBE due to defect of ballot papers.
However, voters went out on June 20 to cast their votes in the remaining constituencies. In some of the constituencies polling was discontinued due to issues related to logistics but it resumed at 2:00 PM the following day.
Hawassa, the capital, was unusually deserted in most parts. Low voter turnout was observed at most of the polling stations. In Harar Kebele, Baladarash sub city, Matheos Mengistu told Addis Standard that he came out very early in the morning to vote. He expressed optimism about the outcome of the election.
The residents of Hawassa who Addis Standard spoke to were excited to take part in the election for the first time after Sidama became the 10th regional state after a referendum in November 2019. A total of 10 parties competed for seats in regional councils and HoPR.
Polling was discontinued in 19 polling stations due to a shortage of ballot papers. The NEBE later explained that the packing of ballot paper was lower by 50%. The ballot papers were later flown there and polling resumed the following day at 11 AM.
Regions where elections did not take place
The NEBE announced that elections will not take place on June 20 in 40 constituencies in six regional states, citing security concerns and procedural defects prior to the election.
The Somali, Benishengul Gumuz regions did not vote with the rest of the country as their voting day was postponed to September 6, 2021. Tigray region also did not vote with security remaining a challenge faced by both the interim administration and the federal government.
What do civil societies say?
Coalition of Civil Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations for Election, which is a consortium of 176 associations, presented its own preliminary election observation report on Wednesday. At a presser, the coalition said that it had more than 3000 permanent and standby observers in seven regions and two city administrations. The report was compiled from a total of 2400 polling stations.
According to the report, the coalition received over 400 reports of critical incidents from its observers, 338 of which were confirmed by the CECOS’s data center. Missing election materials, presence of unauthorized persons in polling stations, prohibiting observers and harassment during the voting and counting process were the main incidents reported in the statement. AS