EU junk plans to watch the elections in Ethiopia

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during a joint press conference with the Kosovar Prime Minister at the EAD building in Brussels, Belgium, April 29, 2021. Kenzo Tribouillard / Poo

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – The European Union has abandoned plans to send observers to parliamentary elections in Ethiopia next month, stating that the conditions for communications systems and the mission’s independence have not been met.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, announced the decision late Monday and stated in a statement that the 27-nation bloc would not oversee preparations for the June 5 elections, including voter registration.

“The EU regrets the refusal to meet the standard requirements for deploying an election observation mission, namely mission independence and the import of mission communication systems,” said Borrell.

“It is disappointing that the EU has not received the necessary assurances to give the Ethiopian people one of its most visible signs of support for their pursuit of democracy.”

Dina Mufti, spokeswoman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, said the main sticking point was the communications system.

“First, they said that they will come with V-SAT communication devices that come from the Ethiopian communication technology system,” Mufti said at a press conference.

“We have held six elections as a country so far, but we have never had such a claim from observers. Each electoral area is accessible to the national telecommunications system, they can use that.”

Ethiopia, a country of 110 million people, has one of the last closed telecommunications markets in the world, but has begun liberalization.

Ethiopia was due to hold an election in August 2020, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then there have been conflicts in the northern region of Tigray, which will not take part in the vote, and in other areas.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party are facing the challenges of increasingly strict ethnic parties seeking more power for their regions.

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