National Election Board of Ethiopia
The House of Federation of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) requested the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) in a letter (No. 11/61) dated October 9, 2020, to conduct a referendum in five zones and one special district in South West Ethiopia, namely Konta Special District, West Omo Zone, Bench Sheko Zone, Dawro Zone, and Kafa Zone, in response to their demand to form a regional government together. Replying to NEBE’s request for further clarification on how to add up the results of the referendum, the House of Federation stated that the results of the referendum should be combined and presented, and the referendum took place on September 30, 2021.
The Board has carried out several activities until the day of the referendum to ensure that the referendum is credible and peaceful. These activities included preparing the referendum budget, determining the timing of the referendum, holding various discussions with stakeholders, giving training, and providing voter information.
In preparation for the referendum, members of the board organized information and identified polling stations and constituencies where the referendum would take place. Accordingly, voter registration and polling took place in 1,613 poll stations found in 22 constituencies. The Board decided to hold the referendum in line with the 6th General Election for reasons related to budget savings, the efficiency of performance, and proper usage of time, and the date of the referendum was changed following the change on the date of the 6th General Election.
The referendum was originally intended to be held on June 21, 2021. However, it was postponed to September 30, 2021, due to the fact that voter registration had not been (properly) conducted in some constituencies in the region. Accordingly, it is estimated that from the total budget allocated for the election in general, 7 million ETB was used by the Board for the referendum.
To ensure the peaceful implementation of the referendum, the Board has worked in collaboration with the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Regional State and the zonal administrations where the referendum would take place. Hence, in collaboration with the Referendum Coordinating Project Office, the symbol selection process has been completed and the ballot paper has been prepared.
To implement the referendum, the Board has utilized 4,427 poll workers who had participated in two rounds of training. These poll workers have effectively fulfilled their responsibilities for voter registration and on the day of the referendum.
Voter registration for South West Ethiopia took place from March 27 to May 14, 2021. In the special case, the second round of voter registration took place in one zone from September 1 to September 10. Accordingly, 1,344,622 citizens registered to vote in the referendum.
Radio and television advocacy programs for voters to register for the referendum have been broadcast together with additional various registration requirement messages. This voter registration message has been communicated with the general election information, and special information for the voting process was provided in various languages about the referendum. In addition to these, street campaigns have been carried out by the Voter Education Department of the Board in the zones where the referendum would take place.
More than five discussions were held with the heads of the five zones and one special district, local political parties, and the Referendum Project Office on the implementation of the referendum. In addition, further discussions were held in Hawassa on the final implementation of the referendum. Given the fact that the referendum was held in conjunction with the general election, the parties legally registered in the area had benefited from the free airtime allocated, and their registered representatives were allowed to observe the process.
Since the preparation and distribution of materials for the referendum and the general election were conducted side by side, the procurement of these materials was handled together, whereby 1,774,500 ballot papers for the referendum were printed abroad and were distributed accordingly. In connection with this, verification forms and other polling materials were delivered to the poll stations on time. In addition, the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has opened a temporary Referendum Coordinating Office in Bonga, where it has been providing training, coordination, and finalization of counting of results.
The voting process on September 30, 2021, was peaceful and did not have logistics-related problems. Due to the high turnout in some areas, polling was extended for extra two hours. On Election Day, the Election Operations Desk of the Board has been providing solutions to problems. NEBE staff at the Bonga temporary office also went to areas where support was needed to help speed up the voting process. On the same day, 1,424 civil society organization (CSO) observers were deployed in the region to observe the process.
Out of a total of 1,344,622 registered voters, 1262679 of them cast their ballots. This shows that voter turnout is 93.9% on Referendum Day.
Accordingly, two options were proposed for the referendum of the South West Ethiopia, which are either to support the establishment of a joint regional government which includes the Konta Special District, West Omo Zone, Bench Sheko Zone, Dawro Zone, Kafa Zone, and Shaka Zone, or to support the maintenance of these zones in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region, and the result of the referendum was approved by the Board. According to the Board's Establishment Proclamation 1133/2018 and Article 06 of the Political Parties and Ethics Proclamation 1162/2018, most of the people in Konta Special District, West Omo Zone, Bench Sheko Zone, Dawro Zone, Kafa Zone, and Shaka Zone voted for the establishment of a new joint regional government. Accordingly, the Board shall submit the same result to the House of Federation of the FDRE.
The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) would like to thank the following bodies for their support in implementing the referendum in South West Ethiopia.
- Citizens who voted in the referendum
- Poll station workers who carried out the referendum at various levels
- The administration of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region
- The zonal administrations of Konta Special District, West Omo Zone, Bench Sheko Zone, Dawro Zone, Kafa Zone, and Shaka Zone
- Office of the Referendum Coordinating Project for South West Ethiopia
- Staff of the National Election Board of Ethiopia
- CSOs that observed the referendum process and participated in voter education
- All media outlets that supported the referendum process and all stakeholders.