1. Home
  2. Africa

In the news: Ethiopia postpones election amid coronavirus concerns

‘Although the circumstances are deeply worrying, the delay does offer an opportunity to reset Ethiopia's troubled transition.’

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Office of the Prime Minister - Ethiopia/Flickr
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 19 November 2018.

Ethiopia has postponed a landmark national election scheduled for August on account of coronavirus, the country’s elections commission said on Tuesday, adding that a new date would be set “when the pandemic is over”.

The delayed vote is seen as a critical test for Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose reformist agenda has opened up long-simmering social and ethnic tensions across the East African country.

Twenty-six confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported so-far in the country – Africa’s second-most populous – which has closed schools, banned large gatherings, and restricted travel.

The International Crisis Group’s Ethiopia analyst, William Davison, told AFP that Abiy’s ruling party should use the extra time to discuss “critical topics” with opposition parties – including how to make the elections free and fair.

“Although the circumstances are deeply worrying, the delay does offer an opportunity to reset Ethiopia's troubled transition,” Davison said.

Abiy came to power in 2018 and has quickly reshaped Ethiopia with a series of sweeping reforms. He has released political prisoners, invited exiles to return home, and helped end a two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

Last year, he dissolved the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition that had dominated the country for nearly three decades – creating a single entity, the pan-Ethiopian Prosperity Party, in its place.

But the easing of authoritarian controls has empowered ethnic nationalists, triggering violence that has killed hundreds and displaced millions. Read our latest coverage for more.

– Philip Kleinfeld

Subscribe to our coronavirus newsletter to stay up to date with our coverage.

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.