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External observer mission neither essential nor necessary, Ethiopia fires back at EU

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on May 4, 2021/ OPM

While external observers could add some value to strengthen the quality of electoral processes, they are neither essential nor necessary to certify the credibility of an election, Ethiopia has said.

In a response to the European Union, which on May 3 suspended the deployment of an electoral observer mission for the June elections, Addis Ababa said the validity and legitimacy of its election is determined “solely by Ethiopian laws, institutions and ultimately, by the people of Ethiopia”.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell in a statement on Monday cancelled the bloc’s election observation mission, saying they did not agree on a deal with Ethiopian authorities.

“Despite all efforts by the European Union, it was not possible to reach an agreement with Ethiopian authorities on key parameters for the deployment of an EU Electoral Observation Mission in view of the parliamentary elections on 5 June 2021. As conditions are not fulfilled, the deployment of the mission has to be cancelled,” Borrell said in the statement.

Noting that the integrity of an electoral observation mission is a cornerstone of the EUs support for democracy, he regretted that the European bloc regrets the refusal of the fulfilment of standard requirements for the deployment of any Electoral Observation Mission.

The requirements are the independence of the mission and the import of mission communication systems, which Borrell said are key for the security of EU observers, in particular in the context of a challenging security environment. This situation also impacts election preparations, including voter registration, he said.

But Ethiopia in a statement said it is committed to make the upcoming election free, fair, and democratic and is determined to continue working with all stakeholders to make it so.

ALL EFFORTS MADE TO ACCOMMODATE EU

Expressing its disappointment with the decision of the EU High Representative to cancel the deployment of its observation mission for the upcoming general election, Ethiopia said all possible efforts were made to conclude the administrative arrangement for the deployment of the mission to no avail.

“When the EU requested to observe the elections earlier this year, the Government of Ethiopia immediately accepted and started negotiating in good faith on the draft agreement for the deployment of the observation mission.”

“All concerned government institutions and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) were engaged in the process, and while work was underway to finalize the Agreement, the Government also welcomed and facilitated the visit of the Exploratory Mission of the EU to Ethiopia two month ago.”

“The Exploratory Mission had a productive stay and held discussions with various stakeholders. This was the impression the Government obtained from the Mission upon the completion of its work and whose recommendations later on led to the decision by the EU to deploy the observer mission,” the statement said.

Ethiopia: EU cancels deployment of election observation mission

Commenting on the contentious issue – the communications systems –  Ethiopia said it was put forth as a deal-breaker for the EU to observe the polls.

Maintaining that such services can only be provided by the Ethio-telecom, Ethiopia said the demand by the EU came as surprise “as none of these elements were a bone of contention in past elections”.

“At a time when the telecommunication infrastructure in Ethiopia has made huge strides employing the latest available technologies, questioning the effectiveness and efficiency of its services is not a convincing reason to take the hasty decision of cancelling the mission ‘s deployment,” the statement said.

AGAINST PRE-ANNOUNCEMENT COMMENTS

Ethiopia also said the EU also rejected their proposal to include in the Agreement that statements or public comments by the observer mission prior to the issuance of its preliminary findings and conclusions not be prejudicial to the election process or influence the perception of the public, on the result of the election to be announced only by NEBE.

“This concern stems from the fact that ii the past, such pronouncements by other EU observer missions had serious repercussions on the country as a whole,” the statement said.

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