CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Ethiopia will hold a parliamentary election in May or June despite security and logistic concerns, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday.
The election will be the first under Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy, who took office in April 2018 and launched political and economic reforms.
His reform agenda has also stoked violence and highlighted ethnic divisions in the country of about 105 million people, and the election board said last June that the security situation could delay the 2020 election.
“On the schedule, I am not sure whether it is May or June, because the schedule will be declared by the election board but I think we will conduct an election this year because it is a constitutional mandate,” Abiy said in response to a question at a media briefing with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“There might be lots of challenges, not only logistics but also peace and security… It is better for Ethiopians and for Ethiopian parties to conduct the election on time in a very peaceful and democratic manner,” he said.
Ahmed is on an official state visit to South Africa. The two governments signed agreements to enhance cooperation, including on tourism and health.
Ethiopia has regularly held elections since 1995 but, with the exception of the 2005 election, no election has been competitive.
In the 2005 election, riots erupted after the opposition cried foul, security forces killed nearly 200 protesters, and the government jailed many opposition politicians.
Opposition politicians have warned against any delay in the election, and critics have said that postponing the vote could cause an adverse social reaction, fuel regional conflicts and damage Abiy’s democratic credentials.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, Editing by Timothy Heritage)