Ethiopia’s upper house speaker has resigned in apparent protest at the postponement of planned elections in the Horn of Africa country over the coronavirus, a sign of growing tension between her party and the government.
Speaker Keria Ibrahim is also a top official in Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), one of the country’s major political parties that have opposed the postponement.
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The parliamentary and regional elections had been planned for August, ahead of the end of incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s term in September. No new date has yet been set.
In a televised speech, Keria accused Abiy’s government of taking away Ethiopians’ sovereign rights, without elaborating.
She was widely understood to refer to the government’s decision to postpone the elections, which effectively allowed Abiy to continue ruling beyond the expiry of his term.
“I can’t be an accomplice when the constitution is being violated, and a dictatorial government is being formed,” she said. “I have resigned not to be collaborator [with] such a historical mistake.”
Last month, TPLF, which is also the governing party for the country’s Tigray region, threatened to organise polls for the area in defiance of the postponement, potentially setting the region on a collision course with the federal government.
Keria’s resignation underscored the deteriorating relationship between Abiy and his ruling Prosperity Party and the TPLF, said Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies at Bjorknes University in Oslo.
“If the process is left unabated, it may lead to an open confrontation,” he said.
Abiy took power in Africa’s second-most populous country in 2018 and went on to roll out a series of reforms allowing greater freedoms in what had long been one of the continent’s most repressive states.
But the reforms have made it possible for long-held grievances against the government’s decades of harsh rule to resurface, and emboldened regional power-brokers such as the TPLF to seek more power for their ethnic groups.