İrem UZUN -TDO- The electoral commission of Ethiopia has announced that it has postponed parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus outbreak. "We have decided to hold back the timetable issued for the parliamentary election due to the coronavirus phenomena that made it impossible to carry on with electoral preparations," read a statement by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).

Ethiopia is Africa's second-most populous nation with 105 million citizens. Abiy promised to liberalize the state-run economy and oversaw reforms that saw thousands of political prisoners, journalists and opposition activists released. Previous elections in Ethiopia, a parliamentary democracy, have been marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation of the opposition. Abiy had promised to hold free and fair elections in August and has been positioning himself as a unity candidate whose reforms could replace state repression as the glue to hold together Ethiopia's often fractious federal regions.  But his party would have faced a stiff challenge from many newly resurgent regional, ethnically-based parties.  Representatives of some of the regional parties - the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) - voiced approval of the electoral board's decision, defusing the possibility of protests.

The Horn of Africa nation has 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus and the government has closed schools and restricted gatherings to curb the spread of the highly infectious illness. “For now, our priority is how to overcome the pandemic,” said Yesuf Ebrahim, NAMA’s spokesman. Opposition parties and the government need to discuss what will happen when parliament’s term ends in September, Yesuf said.

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