By Brook Abdu
The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) slammed the regional state of Somali following the latter’s claim that it will not take part in the upcoming elections unless the Board reverses its decision to call off polling stations in the contested kebeles between Somali and Afar regional states.
The Somali regional state government led by Mustefe Mohammed, in its letter written on March 25, 2021, warned that it will not take part in the upcoming general elections unless the Board reverses its decision.
The NEBE issued a statement on March 26, 2021 in response to the regional state’s remarks. In the statement, the NEBE slammed the Somali regional government’s claims not to take part in the elections as legally meaningless since parties and their candidates, not regional governments, run in the elections.
The NEBE statement also explained that its decision to call off polling stations in the contested kebeles was meant to discharge its responsibilities of ensuring peace during elections.
It further pointed out that the establishment of polling stations doesn’t warrant the passing of decisions on contested administrative borders, as that is not within the Board’s mandate.
The contested three kebeles of Adaytu, Undufo and Gedamaytu, which the Afar regional state claimed have been included to polling stations under the Somali region, caused protests in Afar region resulting in road blockades. Furthermore, the regional government voiced its concerns to the Board through a letter.
Earlier this week, the Board confirmed the complaint filed by the Afar regional state following the announcement of the list of polling stations in a press statement sent to The Reporter. The Board reminded it organized polling stations based on the practices in the previous five elections so that citizens can cast their votes in stations closest to them.
It also highlighted that polling stations are not party of any administrative structure of any government, rather they are places for citizens to register and cast votes in elections.
“The National Election Board establishes its structure during election operation activities; however, these structures are not similar to the governmental structures,” the statement reads.
Hence, although the placement of polling stations does not indicate administrative boundaries, the Board decided that 30 polling stations planned for these kebeles will not be established as “elections should not be a cause for instability.”
Therefore, polling stations will not be established in Galaito/Adaile, Adayitu, Tewuo/Alale, Gurmudale/Undufo, GdamaYetu/Garebaise, Afaso/Afuase, and BalaitiGona/Medenikebeles.
The board said the electorate needs to go to nearby polling stations so that citizens’ right to vote is not restricted and warned groups from exploiting electoral operations, polling stations as well as constituency offices for existing administrative boundary disagreements.