Merera Gudina, Ethiopia

Opposition politicians in Ethiopia are warning against a delay to national elections due in 2020 that would be the first under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed but are under threat from an explosion of regional ethnic rivalries. Earlier this month, the election board said insecurity, which has driven 2.4 million people out of their homes according to the United Nations, could delay next year’s parliament vote. A national census has already been postponed twice, potentially undermining logistics for the polls including the drawing up of constituencies. Critics say postponing the national vote could cause an adverse social reaction, further fuel regional conflicts, and damage Abiy’s democratic credentials. “If the government is going to postpone the general election … it will anger the public,” former political prisoner Merera Gudina told Reuters by phone. He chairs the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress party from a region, Oromia, at the heart of anti-government protests in recent years. “Once the public begins to express its anger … no one will have the means or the power to control it.” Ethiopia’s 100 million citizens are seeing unprecedented political change. Abiy, who took power last year after his predecessor suddenly resigned, has freed journalists and activists, lifted bans on political parties, and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses. “CONFLICTS ESCALATING” Those reforms followed three years of sporadic deadly protests against the government in which hundreds died and thousands were imprisoned. Local elections last year were postponed due to unrest. Election board chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa acknowledged…

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