Institutional reforms of the National Election Board of Ethiopia
Ever since the National Election Board of Ethiopia introduced its institutional transformation in December 2018, it has undertaken many reforms. The main aim of the reforms is to establish the Board as a credible institution and to prepare it for the upcoming election. Here are the main events the Board worked on and is still working on, with great emphasis.
Reforming legal framework
It can be recalled that the three main laws that have been governing elections and similar matters in Ethiopia (Election law, Political parties registration law and political parties code of conduct law) were grounds for complaint. Accordingly, in collaboration with democratic institution working team under the Federal Attorney Justice and Legal Affairs Advisory Council, a proclamation for establishment of the Board was drafted and adopted by the House of People’s Representatives. The Board’s establishment is now as per. the new proclamation 1133/2019 In addition, the Ethiopian electoral, political parties’ registration and Election’s code of conduct proclamation no. 1162/2019 was adopted by the House of People’s Representatives around the end of 2019, based on discussion and research done on the laws.
Among the main reforms the National Election Board of Ethiopia establishment proclamation no. 1133/2019 introduced are:
- Reducing the number of board members from nine to five.
- Board members, unlike previous times, now serve full-time.
- Unlike previous times where it was established by the parliament, the Office of the Board is now established by the Board itself. The Chief Executive of the office is now accountable to the chairperson.
- In order to make the nomination of board members transparent and inclusive, clear requirements and procedures have been introduced.
In addition, political party registration and code of conduct laws as well as provisions regarding election execution and election officers have all been incorporated into a single electoral law under proclamation no. 1162/2011.As per the recommendation by the expert’s team, legal frameworks regarding election found in several proclamations have all been incorporated into a single electoral roll.All these took place in deliberation with stakeholders and political parties . Moreover, such deliberations, discussion and debates called by the House of People’s Representatives and by mass media took place. The law was adopted by the House of People’s Representatives in August.
After the law was adopted, 22 out of 39 directives that are being drafted by the Board’s legal department were drafted and presented for public consultation. Civil societies; media and political parties discussed and provided inputs on them. The Board will incorporate those feedbacks before adopting the directives. Ever since the re-establishment of the Board, three directives, namely: NEBE regional office heads recruitment directive, Sidama Referendum directive, political parties’ compliance directive have been adopted and are being implemented. The Board will adopt and publicize the directives after incorporating the inputs gathered.
The Board’s capacity building activities
The Board has four additional management board members appointed, as per the newly adopted proclamation, that have been in office since June, 2019. All management board members are in office and leading by dividing tasks. The Board has also wound up recruitment and has appointed regional office heads. The recruitment of regional heads was carried out in a participatory manner and interviews were conducted by board members after the positions were announced in the media. The names of the selected regional heads were then sent to political parties active in each region asking for their opinions. Currently, all of The Board’s permanent offices that are located at federal and regional level are re-established while offices below regional offices will be established during election campaigning season if needed.
The Board, in collaboration with Ethiopian Management Institute, has conducted a human resource management improvement policy study and has hired a human resource policy consultant to ensure the implementation of the policy. Currently, the Board is implementing this fully transformed human resource management policy in the form of a policy document.
Registration of political parties and support
One of the main responsibilities of the Board is monitoring and supporting political parties. The Board provides letters of support and assistance required during preparation of program and by-laws in order to help facilitate establishment of new political parties. It is also providing aid for registration and to address complaints and questions lodged.
At the moment, there are 84(35 nationwide and50 regional) political parties certified by previous laws; 21(6 nationwide and 15 regional) which are in the process of registration have been called upon to complete the requirements set by the new political parties law.
According to the laws on proclamation of registration of Political Parties and the Electoral Code of Conduct 1162/2011 and the directive no.3, which was established to implement the proclamation, actions were taken to investigate documents and identify requirements that need to be met by political parties. The directive was also given to all political parties.
- Other than parties representing a minority population or a confirmed population of 10,000 - 100,000, all political parties must fulfill the number of founding members indicated on the law by March 2020.
- Parties that have not conducted their general conferences on time and parties representing a minority population or a confirmed population of 10,000 - 100,000 must conduct their general conferences according to the number of general conference members stated on the law and make amends on their code of conducts by March 3, 2020.
- To submit an audit-approved current financial report regarding the support provided by the government during the general elections held in 2010 and 2015.
- Parties that have not missed the deadline to hold a general conference have been told to hold their conferences by February 30, 2021 and make amends to their code of conduct.
Accordingly, out of 105 previously registered parties, 76 political parties have submitted documents and are being investigated as to whether they have fulfilled the requirements in the law.
In addition to the aforementioned investigations, the task of sampling from the document of list of founding members of the political parties is completed and checking the accuracy of the number of founding members that the political parties are required to fulfill is still ongoing. The Board has decided to cancel the certification of the parties who failed to meet the party registration documents and the deadline for presenting their documents, as they did not provide a valid reason. Only two parties were granted more time to present documents as they provided valid reasons.
In addition to the above mentioned parties, 30 parties are making arrangements to register under the new law after getting temporary certificates.
In the past year and a half, the National Election Board of Ethiopia has had more than 35 discussions with political parties. The topics of these discussions included laws; directives; decisions concerning political parties; media, civil societies and election timetables. It made sure that parties received training, in collaboration with international organizations.
Political parties’ dialogue forum and establishment of political parties’ joint council
The Board facilitated organization of political parties’ dialogue forum with the aim of assisting political parties strengthen the relationship among themselves. The Board assisted several dialogues of political parties:
- Political parties jointly adopted rules of engagement that will govern parties’ dialogue forum
- Signed an agreement that’ll govern parties’ individual and joint correspondence.
- The parties established a joint council which executes their agreement and other matters and have elected its management for two rounds.
- The parties have identified agendas worth discussing and agreed on the chronology of the same. They’ve also elected individuals that’ll be impartial moderators.
- The Board is providing technical support, coordinating and giving other supports valuable for dialogue, when required.
Works jointly done with civil societies
One of the responsibilities of the National Election Board of Ethiopia is providing civic and voter education and making sure voters have information. Several preparations have taken place in order to collaborate with civil societies. Accordingly, a newly drafted civic and voter education was discussed with civil societies based on democratic principles, after rectifying previous issues. The manual has been adopted after incorporating inputs provided by civil societies. Building a nationwide civic and voter education system is also underway. In addition, a discussion regarding provision of voter education with civil societies took place and the Board has adopted the directive after incorporating feedback.
Civil societies observed and provided reports on the Sidama Referendum that took place on November 20, 2019. The Board discussed with the organization that facilitated the observation, “Coalition of Ethiopian Civil Society Organization for Election” and used the feedback to advance its task.
Furthermore, in order to encourage participation of civil societies in the election process, there were multiple discussions with the same. Civil societies interested in providing civic and voter education and observing the election are keen participants of the Board’s consultation on directives, stakeholders’ conferences and international conferences.
Relations with International donors
The Board continues to work in collaboration with international donor organizations and countries. However, the aid is provided only when the Board seeks assistance and in a manner that respects the Board’s decision making, plan and implementation of works.
Accordingly, discussion on how these donor countries and organizations could support the upcoming election took place and donations were received. The main organizations/countries supporting The Board are United Nation Development Program; United States Agency for International Development; and the European Union.
Preparations for General Election & COVID- 19
It is remembered that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia has been making preparations for the general election after announcing the election timetable.Among the major works done in preparation for the general election:
- Procurement of major materials and publications for use on voter registration and voting (voter registration, registration ID, and stationery) has been done through the United Nations Development Program.
- A digital Constituency map has been prepared for the first time and made public.
- Efforts were made to verify the status of the polling stations and to collect GPS technology. A list of polling stations is also set.
- Preparation for publications of election operation and voter education has been completed.
The Board has suspended election preparation activities and canceled the election timetable after holding discussions with political parties and conducting research on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on election operations. The Board, by assessing the circumstances, will announce a new operations plan and timetable after the pandemic subsidies.