«The EU calls all sides to restrain from violent reactions, and appease tensions» said the European External Action Service spokesperson, while commenting on the situation in Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the elections to the regional 190 seats parliament were declared unilaterally, refusing to postpone them due to pandemic sanitary restrictions.
The Tigray electorate intends to drop ballots on September 9, provoking political tensions between regional and federal delegates, interpreting the Constitution.
«The EU encourages and supports the inclusive, and comprehensive dialogue between all political parties at federal and regional levels in order to organise next general elections in coordinated way» she continued. «The EU intends to deploy an electoral observation mission for the general elections, and will pay special attention to the conditions of its organisation through the electoral process. The EU follow closely the situation in Ethiopia, including through out EU delegation».
The EU spokesperson also quoted the declaration of the House of Federation of Ethiopia, qualifying the decision of the regional parliament of Tigray region as «unconstitutional».
Ethiopia is the key EU partner in the region, while development cooperation is one of the largest in Africa and in the world, amounting to more than €800 million for the period 2014-2020. The significance of the partnership with Ethiopia has been underlined with the symbolism of the first working foreign visit of the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Addis Ababa.
However in spite of the calls for coordinated action from Addis Ababa and abroad, the Office of Electoral Commission of the National Regional State of Tigray said 2672 polling stations were ready for tomorrow’s regional election. Some 2.7 million people are expected to cast their votes from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, the Commission said.
The information about the upcoming vote is limited because the independent observers, and members of the press were not allowed to enter the region.
The elections are just the latest example of how Tigrayan officials are increasingly acting like leaders of an independent state, creating a political standoff, which evokes a great deal of interest and concern abroad. Back in June the Federal election officials said the elections had “no legal basis”, and the upper house of parliament ruled they were “null and void”. On September 5 Ethiopia upper house of parliament, the House of Federation, called the formation of an electoral board in the region illegal and said any actions taken by it would be unenforceable, state-controlled Broadcasting Corporation reported from Addis Ababa.
In recent days, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed office has instructed the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority to call journalists working for foreign media outlets to pressure them not to cover the vote. On September 7, intelligence agents barred several journalists from boarding a flight from Addis Ababa to Mekele.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank revealed that some federal officials have raised the possibility of retaliating by taking economic “punitive” action against the Tigray government – for instance, by withholding financial grants, which amount to half the region’s budget.
Approximately 3 million people are expected to vote in the September 9 regional election, according to the Tigray Regional Electoral Commission, and results are expected to be announced by September 13. Five parties are participating, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and other smaller regional parties such as the Tigray Independence Party, which is focused on for the secession of the region from Ethiopia. However not all the parties in the region entered the standoff with Addis Ababa – the Prosperity Party and the Tigray Democratic Party are both boycotting the elections.