What you need to know:
- AU's Mission report came as Ethiopia reported renewed fighting in the Tigray region which did not hold elections.
- AU Mission insists that the challenges faced by the country have not derailed a free poll.
An election observer mission from the African Union (AU) has endorsed the Ethiopian poll as credible, despite security challenges faced in the country including in the northern Tigray region.
A preliminary report filed by the AU Mission on Wednesday said Ethiopia's local and parliament elections had generally met expectations for being free and fair, even though it cited certain areas to be improved on.
Led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the team says the opening, closing of polling stations as well as counting of the vote was done by the law.
"The Mission concludes that despite some operational, logistical, security, political and Covid-19 related challenges, overall, the pre-election and election day processes were conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner," it said.
"There was nothing, in the Mission’s estimation, that distracted from the credible conduct of the elections. The (Mission) calls on all stakeholders to remain calm in the remaining electoral phase. It urges any stakeholder that is dissatisfied with the electoral outcome to seek redress through established legal and institutional mechanisms."
The AU's Mission report, however, came as Ethiopia reported renewed fighting in Tigray, the northern region which did not hold elections due to the ongoing conflict.
Ethiopian troops had on Tuesday reported significant victory fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), only for the TPLF to report its own version of victory. There were conflicting reports on new killings as well.
On Monday, the country had gone into polls with nearly 670 constituencies holding the crucial polls seen as the biggest test on the popularity of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his new Prospei Party.
In power since April 2018 when Hailemariam Desalehn resigned, Abiy had created the party to collapse the initial ruling Ethiopian National Democratic Revolutionary Front (ENDRF). TPLF refused to dissolve, a move that has fomented the current conflict.
Nonetheless, AU insist that the challenges faced by the country have not derailed a free poll.
"Based on the information collected, the EASF Election Observer Mission concludes
that the 6th general election held on 21st June, 2021 in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was conducted in calm and peaceful manner," said another preliminary report by the observer mission from the Eastern African Standby Force.
According to the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), 46 of 53 registered political
parties fielded candidates, 17 at national and 29 at regional levels.
But those who boycotted it accused Abiy of illegally detaining their leaders. Tigray, some parts of Somali-Afar region, Benshangul-Gumuz and parts of West Wollega regions did not hold elections after authorities claimed there were security challenges.
"Despite this worsening security situation, the mission notes that the government of Ethiopia put in place adequate security measures that ensured a largely peaceful atmosphere during the conduct of elections," Obasanjo's team noted.
It added, however, that Ethiopia must continue freeing up its democratic space and consider financial support for independent candidates.