The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) presented a report on the problems it encountered during voter registration and general operations to competing parties.
The forum was chaired by the Chairwoman of the Board, Birtukan Mideksa. Elections are a multi-stakeholder platform and some of the stakeholders are political parties, and it is necessary to set up a series of forums to make them aware of their mistakes and successes and to correct mistakes as well, the chairperson indicated. Following the Chairperson's speech, members of the Board's Operations Division procured materials for the registration of the election, spoke on distribution and manpower, material quality and safety, and issues related to the opening of polling stations.
Participants of the forum shared their comments following the explanation. Although they are pleased with the Board's efforts and transparency, they commented on problems during the public election campaign and use of free airtime in the media, threats and arrests of candidates, as well as limited number of polling stations resulting in low voter turnout. In response to comments and questions from participants, the Chairperson asserted that voter registration is not going well and, therefore, it requires joint efforts of the civil society and political parties involved in voter education. In terms of material distribution, there were logistics problems and capacity, local security and geographical challenges. There are regions like Afar and Somali where voter registration has not yet begun, and the political parties were reminded that they should not only mention the arrests and related allegations in a general, but they should also provide sufficient evidence which is vital to work together to find a solution.
The ruling party representative, Mr. Binalfe Andualem responded to the complaints from political parties regarding the ruling party. He also expressed his sorrow over the arrests and promised that nothing like this would happen again. He also criticized the parties for not doing anything except making the accusations. He emphasized that the decision was not a one-size-fits-all solution. He said the government will provide necessary support to the board.
At the conclusion of the forum, it was mentioned that there will be a discussion on voter registration dates and related issues in the next follow-up discussion. In general, the Board will also announce the status of the opening and registration of polling stations over the next seven days.