Ethiopia’s Tigray Region to Proceed With Vote, Stoking Tensions

(Bloomberg) --

Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region announced it will proceed with elections, ignoring the electoral board’s postponement of nationwide balloting and placing its administration on a collision course with the federal government.

The decision highlights divisions that have emerged between Ethiopia’s ethnic groups since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power two years ago with a pledge to loosen state control. The reforms have emboldened some political groups to demand greater regional autonomy, triggering unrest and jeopardizing plans to open up the economy to foreign investment.

“The Tigray State Council decided to hold regional elections on time,” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said in a statement on its official Facebook page.

National elections, which had been scheduled for August and were being touted as a key test of Abiy’s reforms, were postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The vote is expected to be held in 2021. On Wednesday, Ethiopian lawmakers whose mandate was set to end in October voted to extend their terms until the poll takes place.

The TPLF effectively ruled Ethiopia from 1991 until Abiy’s ascent to power. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that it headed was merged in December by Abiy into what is now known as the Prosperity Party. The TPLF has branded the new party unconstitutional.

“If Tigray’s ruling party, the TPLF, sticks to its plan to hold regional elections in the next couple of months despite this decision to extend all administrations’ terms, that puts the region on a potential collision course with the federal government,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Ethiopia. “Both parties should immediately convene discussions to address this risk.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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