By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, June 3, 2021- The chairwoman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), Birtukan Mideksa was arraigned at Federal High Court Lideta Branch 1st Election Affairs Bench to explain to the court why the board said it finds it difficult to comply with the decision of Cassation Bench allowing jailed members of the opposition Balderas for True Democracy party to participate in the upcoming general election. Birtukan told the court that the board has started the process of registering the jailed members of the opposition party for candidacy.
The party led by Eskinder Nega appealed to the Federal High Court Lideta Branch 1st Election Affairs Bench following the board’s announcement and asked the court to withhold the election scheduled to take place on June 21, 2021. In its announcement the NEBE explained that it will not be able to implement the decision as the registration process has ended on March 09 and the lottery-based allotment of candidate’s spot on the ballot and printing has been completed ready to be distributed to election stations.
The Federal High Court Lideta Branch 1st Election Affairs Bench ordered the chairperson of the board to appear in court and explain why the board failed to register the jailed members of Balderas party for candidacy. Birtukan told the court that the board had notified the party to submit the names of the individuals which it wants to replace with previously registered candidates. The party had submitted the list of Four its new candidates the previous day according to her.
The defense team however complained that their clients still haven’t gotten the candidate registration certificates which they said is only a ‘30 minutes long paperwork process’. The chairwoman on her part responded by assuring the party members that the certificate will be ready by tomorrow. Birtukan explained to the court that the board discarded 1.3 Million ballots to add the newly registered candidates, which according to her cost 3.5 Million ETB.
After hearing both sides, the court said that it has noted that the board has partially implemented the court orders. The board was ordered to issue the certificate and complete other related administrative procedures and notify the court by June 7, 2021.
Birtukan told Addis Standard that the board is working to ensure the participation of the jailed members of Balderas to participate in the upcoming election. However, she said that the board accepted the court order to prevent the obstruction of the election despite being unconvinced by the decision. “What we are saying is what will happen if they are not freed from jail?” Birtukan said, adding “Had it not been for the limited time before the election, the board would have requested a constitutional inquiry into the matter.” AS