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Spotlight on Conflict: Potential Threats to Ethiopia’s 2020 National Election

Ethiopia, with 110 million people, is scheduled to hold a national election in 2020. This follows a pivotal year for Ethiopia, which in 2018 began a political transition marked by new dynamics in the relationship between the government and the people, including the opposition, private sector, and civil society. With the opening of the political space and the return of several opposition political parties and armed groups, the Ethiopian political landscape has witnessed dramatic changes over the last one-and-a-half years.

The government has insisted on holding the polls in 2020 because of a constitutional mandate, despite logistical concerns and the country’s ongoing humanitarian and security crisis.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has announced a tentative election date of August 16, 2020. Some opposition politicians are happy as they had previously warned against any delay in the election, arguing that postponing the vote could cause an adverse social reaction, fuel regional conflicts, and damage Prime Minister Abiy’s democratic credentials. However, some other opposition groups claim August 16 is unsuitable for elections because it is a fasting day for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and falls during the rainy season across the country.

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