Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray is proceeding with local elections today despite a nationwide postponement of polls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), formerly dominant in the ruling coalition in Addis Ababa and marginalised by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (who took office in 2018), is still in power in Tigray. The TPLF has opposed the federal government’s decision to delay elections, thereby extending the current federal and regional administrations, as an unconstitutional ploy infringing their right to self-determination. The Senate declared the election null and void in advance on Saturday. But the easing of the previous government’s crackdowns appears to have paved the way for some long-standing regional grievances—such as demands for greater autonomy—to be heard.
The African Union has been called in to mediate between the federal government and the TPLF. Abiy has ruled out any military intervention in Mekele as a response to the confrontation. However, there are ongoing fears about possible punitive measures by Addis Ababa, which could further escalate tensions. The situation could spiral into a conflict or, in the long-term, factor into a possible secession of Tigray from Ethiopia. This new confrontation will undermine the already fragile unity of the country and the democratisation efforts undertaken so far.
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