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Officials send conflicting signals over poll dates

After problems with voter registration and security, the chances of another delay in elections are increasing to the frustration of the government

Government officials have told Africa Confidential that there will be no further delays to the polls scheduled for 5 June, and that campaigning has started in earnest. They add that the election authorities will hit a target of registering 51 million eligible voters. They played down the Oromo Federal Congress's decision not to contest the elections while its leaders are detained and facing charges of terrorism and treason.

Nor will elections take place in Tigray as fighting between Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels and federal forces continue into a seventh month.

However, the admission by Birtukan Mideksa, head of the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), that only 31.7 million voters from a population of over 110 million have been registered, with less than a month until polling day suggests that the 51 million target is extremely ambitious (AC Vol 60 No 19, Rushing to the ballot box).

'There's a possibility of postponement,' Birtukan told reporters at the weekend.

In the meantime, further damaging blows have been landed by United States lawmakers and the European Union (AC Vol 62 No 9, Lobby shops curry favour).

The EU has abandoned its plans to send an Election Observation Mission, with the bloc's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, stating that the EU 'has not received the assurances necessary to extend to the Ethiopian people one of its most visible signs of support for their quest for democracy.'

Addis has retorted by stating that the EU refused to accept its demand that its observer mission would not make disparaging remarks about election integrity before releasing its preliminary report.

The EU has already given more than €20m to the NEBE.

In Washington DC a group of US Senators has set out its demands for a delay to the Ethiopian elections in a letter to President Joe Biden's Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.

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