The Constitutionality of Election Postponement in Ethiopia amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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Marew Abebe Salemot
Mequanent Dube

Abstract

Election postponement in Ethiopia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has raised critical constitutional questions that have never been really thought before in the country’s constitutional law jurisprudence. This was because the state of emergency measure in Ethiopia, to contain the spread of COVID-19, was in conflict with constitutional deadlines for elections. The constitutional lacuna was complicated by the absence of explicit constitutional provisions that indisputably govern election postponement. In response to this constitutional dilemma the four possible ‘options’: dissolving the parliament, declaring state of emergency, constitutional interpretation and amendment of the Constitution were suggested. This paper investigates the constitutionality of each of the four alternatives. Given the risks of unconstitutionality in the first three options mentioned above, the constitutionally correct approach, although not ideal during state of emergency, was to amend the Constitution. But the House of Federation, the Ethiopian Upper House entrusted to interpret the constitution, decided and postponed the election indefinitely. The HoF provided superficial analysis and fallacious reasoning and failed to meaningfully grapple with the serious constitutional issues.

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