Relative calm descended on the streets following the end of a rather pallid campaign season for Ethiopia’s sixth national elections. On high-security alert and with a population more anxious about what polling day may bring than thrilled with the prospect of voting, the country will see one of its more momentous elections occur tomorrow. It is marred by unprecedented events seven months since war broke out in the Tigray Regional State, 15 months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported, three years since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to office, half a decade since the first state of emergency was declared and six years since voters last went to the polls.
The promises of most political candidates for the 38 million registered voters have been that the next five years - the length of a single term - would prove more peaceful and less hectic than what has transpired since the mid-2010s. To help them make this choice in secret ballots, at least from the 46 parties either allowed or choosing to run, is the National Electoral Board, tasked with overseeing and managing a massive logistical and technical polling machinery.
Armed with a war chest of 3.7 billion Br, it will receive voters from close to 48,000 polling stations staffed with roughly five poll workers each on average. Perhaps the logistical nightmare is a bit alleviated by the Board having already postponed voting in 64 constituencies of the 547 seats in parliament to September due to security and printing issues. These constituencies do not include the 38 seats of the Tigray region, where a schedule for elections has not been set owing to its dismal security situation.
When voters go to polls tomorrow, which opens at 6am and will stay open through the day, they should catch a glimpse of some of the over 46,000 local observers. There are also 45 civil society organisations and 100 international observers monitoring the elections. Sometime in the three weeks after polling day, the Board will announce the results, and together with it, a glimpse of the future to come.
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