JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Ethiopia´s upper house of parliament on Saturday called elections planned next week in the northern Tigray region unconstitutional, amid a confrontation between the federal government and regional officials who have warned that any intervention amounts to a “declaration of war.”
“The decision by the House of Federation treats the act of the Tigray regional state as void from the very beginning,” legal expert Kiya Tsegaye told The Associated Press. “This makes the election unconstitutional and illegitimate. I think this decision will be the base for the next legal action by the federal government.”
Regional officials in Tigray have opposed the year-long postponement of Ethiopia´s general election, once planned for August, and the continuation of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed´s mandate beyond term limits. They have organized their own election for Sept. 9. The federal government has said the postponement relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and should be respected.
Members of the upper house of parliament from the Tigray region boycotted its meeting Saturday.
The Sept. 9 vote will elect members of the regional parliament, which in turn will elect the region’s cabinet and administrators.
Ethiopia´s prime minister has ruled out a military intervention to deal with the confrontation, but there are fears that any punitive measures by the federal government could escalate tensions further.
The standoff with Ethiopia´s northern region is just the latest challenge to the administration of Abiy, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part for the sweeping political reforms since he took office in early 2018.
The loosening of the former government´s repressive measures, however, have opened the way for certain long-held grievances and requests by some regions for more autonomy. The former government was largely led by people from the Tigray region, exacerbating the tensions.