Ethiopia’s electoral commission has postponed the upcoming general election in the country that was scheduled to take place at the end of August 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, reported Reuters.
The August poll was considered as a key test of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reformist agenda in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.
“Because of issues related to the coronavirus, the board has decided it can’t conduct the election as planned… so it has decided to void that calendar and suspend all activities,” the electoral commission said in a statement on Tuesday.
The electoral body said a new date for the general election would be set only when the pandemic is over.
Ethiopia has so far recorded 25 COVID-19 cases as part of a wider outbreak that has brought the world to a standstill. The government has implemented a range of measures intended to curb the spread of the deadly virus, including banning large gatherings and restricting travel.
The election commission said the decision to postpone the August poll was taken as various measures undertaken to curb coronavirus would have prevented the timely completion of activities like voter registration and the recruitment and training of observers.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation. In 2018, when Abiy came to power, he promised to liberalize the state-run economy and also introduced some strategic reforms including one that saw thousands of political prisoners released.
He had promised to conduct free and fair elections in August when his party is expected to face a stiff challenge from many ethnically-based parties.
While Abiy’s efforts won him the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 and plaudits at home, his plan to open up its state-controlled economy also led to violent clashes in the country by people emboldened by his reforms. According to the United Nations, the clashes, along with natural disasters, forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes.