- The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has approved the schedule for the upcoming national elections, which are to be held in May next year. Planning and preparations are now to start.
According to a statement issued by NEBE today, the board had a meeting on Tuesday where the election schedule was approved of. The upcoming fourth national elections to be held across the country on 23 May next year, it was decided.
The electoral board has given itself time until 21 June to pronounce the final election results, however hoping to be ready before that date.
According to NEBE Chairman Merga Bekana, preparations are already being made for the upcoming polls. "Logistics is made ready to hold the election same day across the country," Professor Bekana stated.
Ethiopians across the country will elect a new 548-seats parliament - the House of People's Representatives - in May next year. Some 20 million citizens in over 500 constituencies are entitled to cast their vote in the vast country.
Officially, Ethiopia is a parliamentary democracy, meaning that the parliamentary majority elects a government. The head of government, currently Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, holds real powers, while the Ethiopian President only has ceremonial powers.
In real terms, however, democracy has gotten tougher conditions in Ethiopia, where the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front is accused of manipulating elections and oppressing parts of the opposition and press.
The May 2005 multi-party elections were marked by polarisation. While the opposition managed to strengthen its parliamentary strength, several parties and groups claimed there had been widespread fraud. International observers were divided on these claims, most saying the polls had been satisfactory. The polls were however flawed by post-election violence and government arrests of oppositional groups.
Ethiopia, still being a favourite among many Western donor nations, will not avoid international vigilance on its 2010 elections. This major Western ally will need to keep a relatively democratic track record to maintain its support in conflicts against Eritrea and Somalia.
It is widely expected that NEBE will invite international election observers to monitor next year's polls, as the board did in advance of the 2005 elections. Then, observer missions from the European Union, the US Carter Centre, among others, monitored the polls.
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