The election commission in Ethiopia has announced that it will postpone the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The August polls had been seen as a key test of the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation. When Abiy took power in 2018, he promised to liberalise the state-run economy and introduced reforms that saw thousands of political prisoners released.
He had promised to hold free and fair elections in August when his party would have faced a stiff challenge from many ethnically based parties newly emboldened by his reforms.
The election commission in a statement on Tuesday explained that due to issues related to the coronavirus, the board has decided it cannot conduct the election as planned. Therefore, it has decided to void that calendar and suspend all activities. It said a new date would be given when the pandemic is over.
So far, Ethiopia has recorded 25 cases of COVID-19 and federal and regional officials have introduced a range of measures intended to curb its spread, including banning large gatherings and restricting travel.
These measures would have prevented the timely completion of activities like voter registration and the recruitment and training of observers, the election commission said.
The novel coronavirus virus has spread to 47 out of the 54 countries in the African continent with several countries haven initiated serious lockdown measures.
According to statistics gotten from WHO African Region, South Africa currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases (1,353) while Egypt has the highest fatalities (41). So far, the African continent has a total of 9,179 cases and 269 fatalities of coronavirus.