EU’s decision to postpone the deployment of its election observation mission in Ethiopia for the forthcoming elections
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s government has learned with regret that the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has decided to cancel the deployment of its election monitoring team for the forthcoming general elections.
Both relevant government agencies and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) were involved in the process, and while the government was working to finalize the agreement, it also invited and encouraged the EU Exploratory Mission’s visit to Ethiopia two months ago. The Exploratory Mission had a fruitful stay and spoke with a variety of stakeholders. This was the impression the Government got from the Mission after it finished its job, and it was the EU’s suggestion that contributed to the deployment of the observer mission.
Although the government worked hard and quickly to reach a consensus on the deployment’s mode, it’s unfortunate to hear that the issue of communications equipment has been raised as a deal-breaker for the EU to witness one of the most awaited democratic elections in the country’s history. The Ethiopian government has made it clear from the start that VSAT facilities can only be offered by Ethio-telecom while the EU accepts additional requests to import relevant equipment. The Ethiopian government was taken aback by the EU’s demand, which came as a surprise as a significant political ally and ardent supporter of the reform process.
Questioning the effectiveness and reliability of the mission’s resources is not a compelling excuse to postpone the mission’s launch at a time when Ethiopia’s telecommunication system has made significant strides using the new available technology.
In a similar vein, the EU has dismissed the Ethiopian request to include in the Agreement that declarations or public remarks made by the observer mission prior to the release of its preliminary results and conclusions do not jeopardize the election process or affect public opinion of the election outcome, which will be declared solely by NEBE.
This anxiety comes from the fact that similar statements made by other EU observer missions in the past have had significant consequences for the country as a whole.
The government is dedicated to making the upcoming elections open, equal, and democratic, and will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal. External observers can be useful in improving the efficiency of democratic procedures, but they are neither required nor sufficient to certify an election’s legitimacy. Ethiopian rules, Ethiopian governments, and, finally, Ethiopian citizens decide the authenticity and legitimacy of Ethiopia’s election.