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Ethiopia announces new date for parliamentary elections ahead of PM's big test

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopians will go for much anticipated parliamentary polls on August 29, the country's electoral body said on Friday, paving way for a flurry of political activities.

Tentatively, the National Elections Board of Ethiopia [NEBE] had set August 16 for the polls, but it had warned of "inevitable changes" if need be.

August's polls will be the first under reformist Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, who took over from Hailemariam Desalegn in April 2018, after a series of violent demonstrations.

Birtukan Mideksa, the NEBE chairperson, announced the new date after weeks of waiting by members of the public and politicians at a function in Addis Ababa.

"Looking at parts of the country which will be affected by the rainy season, pushing the schedule a little further will ease our burden," she said at a conference on Friday.

The final results of the election will be announced from August 30 to September 8, according to the new schedule, she added.

Plans to hold the parliamentary and regional council elections in May were postponed as neither authorities nor parties would be ready, Mideksa had said in January.

Mideksa's pronouncement comes barely a month after she also announced the folding of the ruling coalition Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF].

Despite resistance from a section of members, EPRDF was disbanded, paving way for Abiy Ahmed's Prosperity Party, which was formed last year.

In a statement, Abiy said the party would bring on board "minorities and marginalized groups as part of my inclusivity agenda" for Ethiopian people.

Only Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF] resisted the merger of founder parties of the coalition, which has ruled Ethiopia since 1991.

Since taking over, Abiy has been credited for engineering social-economic reforms, although they have often been linked to ethnic violence which has left hundreds dead.

Last year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize award ostensibly for his role in brokering a peace deal with Eritrea, ending decades of a frosty relationship between Addis Ababa and Asmara.

This August, the polls could be the first competitive encounter for the ruling bureaucrats, given that previous outings had little competition from critics, analysts say.