Ethiopia PM Urges Patience as Delayed Vote Stokes Tensions

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(Bloomberg) --

Ethiopia’s prime minister called on opposition members to be patient amid concerns that the postponement of elections will create a constitutional crisis and stoke political tension.

“If the election is extended, it is only by months, so the opposition parties need to have patience for a few months, prepare and within the time-frame given by the electoral board, carry out a democratic election that is acceptable by all,” Abiy Ahmed said in a speech to parliament on Monday.

The Horn of Africa nation’s electoral board delayed the vote from August because of the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers are assessing how to deal with the legality of the government given that the mandate of the current administration expires on Oct. 10.

The election is seen as a test of the popularity of Abiy, who rose to power more than two years ago following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn and won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for efforts to end hostilities with neighboring Eritrea. Yet, protests and ethnic violence continue and further political instability could threaten moves to open up the economy of the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest population.

Kereya Ibrahim, the speaker of the Ethiopian parliament’s upper house, resigned on Monday, accusing the federal government of breaching the constitution to extend its rule unlawfully. The Council of Constitutional Inquiry, a body that investigates constitutional disputes, is expected to propose a way forward later this month.

Some opposition members have called for a transitional government. The ruling Prosperity Party opposed the postponement of the election, Abiy said.

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