The voter registration process in the Somali region has had the highest complaints filed during the 6th general election. Political parties in the region filed complaints with the Board (ONLF, Freedom and Equality, EZEMA and an individual candidate), and images and videos showing the illegal registration process were revealed on social media; the Board was also able to see these images and videos that were collected through its media monitoring unit.
The following are the major complaints that were filed by the political parties, jointly as well as separately, at different times;
1. Voter registration cards were given improperly, and cards were distributed outside of polling stations.
2. Unfilled voter registration cards were given to the lower administrative level (Kebele woreda) staff and candidates.
3. The voter registration process is heavily manipulated by the ruling party's lower-level staff, and as a result, voter registration is not under the control of the Board.
4. There is a question of impartiality as polling station officers are related to government officials and candidates in various ways.
5. Citizens assumed of being supporters of the opposition were barred from registering.
6. Voter registration cards were collected back from citizens who were registered.
7. Voter Cards’ Blue Box was not properly sealed when it arrives at polling stations, indicating that it has been opened on its way.
With the complaints, the parties provided detailed written complaints, photos, videos and other documents to serve as evidence.
Based on the complaints, the Board undertook the following activities.
• Discussed with the petitioning political parties both at central and regional level.
• A team of investigators led by the Vice-Chairperson of the Board was sent to the region and discussed with constituency officers, polling station workers and other bodies.
• After meeting and reviewing the complaints and the supporting documents presented, the Board made the following major decisions.
Decisions of the National Election Board of Ethiopia regarding voter registration in the Somali region
1. The Board has thoroughly investigated the detailed complaints filed on the voter registration process; has compared over 150 blank and registered voter cards with the data on the voter registration system; has cross-checked the video (translated) and images with the complaints.
Based on the trends observed in the process, recognizing that some of the malpractices mentioned by the petitioners might have happened and cognizant of how this raises serious doubts about the process and that there is sufficient information to initiate an investigation, the Board decided to temporarily suspend voters’ registration in the following constituencies were most complaints of misconduct were filed.
• Arabi Constituency for house of people representative (HoPR) (including Regional Council for Awbere and Denbel City Constituencies)
• Deghamedo Constituency
• Gode HoPR Constituency (including Regional Council for Adadle, Berano, Danan, East Imi, Elweine, Gode, Gode Constituencies)
• Jijiga 1 HoPR Constituency (including Regional Council for Jijiga, Jijiga City, Tulu Gudle constituencies)
• Kebri Dahar HoPR Constituency (including Regional Council for Debewoin, Kebri Dahar, Kebri Dahar City, Mersin, Shekosh and Shilolo Constituencies)
• Kelafo HoPR Constituency (including Regional Council for Firfir and Kelefo constituency constituencies)
• Warder HoPR Constituency (including Regional Council for Deratele and Warder Constituencies)
2. The Board has prepared a guideline for the actions constituency and polling station officers and Operations staff will take while the voter registration process in the above-mentioned constituencies is suspended. All action will be taken in accordance with the guideline.
3. The Board will establish a task force to investigate the voter registration process in the above-mentioned constituencies. The Board will prepare a detailed technical paper about the roles of the political parties, the Board’s staff and independent experts in conducting the investigation process and proceed with implementation.
National Election Board of Ethiopia
May 08, 2021