Ethiopia’s electoral board has suspended the parliamentary elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Horn of Africa nation has 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far.
“Due to the pandemic we were forced to suspend our activities,” said an Amharic-language statement from the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.
The board will announce a new timeline once the pandemic has subsided, it said.
This move was also backed by top opposition parties. Representatives of some of the regional parties – the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) – said they would not oppose the delay.
“For now, our priority is how to overcome the pandemic,” said Yesuf Ebrahim, NAMA’s spokesman. Opposition parties and the government must discuss what will happen when parliament’s term ends in September, Yesuf said.
The much-anticipated landmark vote had been regarded as an important test of the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the Horn of Africa nation.
Previous elections in Ethiopia, a parliamentary democracy, have been marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation.
Abiy has promised to hold free and fair elections and has been positioning himself as a unity candidate whose reforms could broker peace among rival federal factions.