DURBAN – The coronavirus has had a serious impact on all sectors across the world and now it also poses a risk for democracy and human rights. Several countries have since postponed national elections due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
On Wednesday lawmakers in Ethiopia voted to delay national elections and thus extend Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s current mandate. The polls will now be held 9 to 12 months after health authorities determine that it is safe to do so.
Opposition leaders have also accused Abiy of seizing on the coronavirus pandemic to artificially prolong his mandate. According to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, Ethiopia has reported 2,506 Covid-19 infections and 35 deaths.
Sri Lanka has also taken the decision to postpone its Parliamentary elections to August 5, more than three months delayed because of the coronavirus, the election commission said after health authorities gave their approval.
A mock election will be held this weekend to test new health measures that will be implemented at polling booths and counting centres, commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said on Wednesday.
The first two election dates, April 25 and June 20, were postponed as the Election Commission sought assurances from health authorities that would be safe to hold the vote.
In many other African countries, officials have postponed votes. Of the countries scheduled to have elections this year, nine have so far announced delays.
The Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all suspended sub-national elections. Ethiopia has postponed national polls. And in early-May, South Africa’s electoral commission announced it would be delaying 30 municipal by-elections and warned that polls scheduled for 2021 could also be affected.
In a statement released on Monday the ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), said it is considering a number of changes to South Africa’s electoral process.
“The proposed changes come after the Electoral Court ordered the postponement of a number of municipal by-elections due to Covid-19 safety concerns. The ANC noted that a number of important public-participation processes have also been impacted by the pandemic. The ANC noted that a number of important public-participation processes have also been impacted by the pandemic,” said ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule.
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