News Alert: HoF approves CCI’s recommendation to extend both Houses, state councils term limit; constitutional expert raises concern

Image: The 5th year, 1st regular session of the HoF held in October 2019.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Federation (Hof) says Speaker’s resignation, has no impact on the House

By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb

Addis Abeba, June 10/2020 – Members of the House of Federation (HoF), Ethiopia’s upper Chamber, in its 5th year, second regular session of the Chamber today approved the Council of Constitutional Inquiry’s (CCI) recommendations submitted to the Constitutional Interpretation and Identity sub-committee on May 29. The House approved the recommendation with 114 yeses, 4 nos and one abstention.

The sub-committee has been discussing on CCI’s submission recommending extension of term limits of both the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR), the HoF, and regional Councils after Ethiopia called off the general elections scheduled to take place on August 29 this year.

The two-day session by the HoF is expected to outline CCI’s two recommendations on term limits of the federal and regional parliaments until Ethiopia conducted elections. According to the recommendations, the 153 members of the HoF should deliberate and decide that the term of office of the HoPR, the HoF, state councils and the executive at federal and state levels to be extended for the period of time that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a threat to public health, as well as Ethiopia’s COVID-19 State of Emergency (SOE) remained in place, “until such time that new elections are held and transfer of power is effected.”

The CCI also recommended that the HoF should deliberate and decide for elections to be held between nine and 12 months time following announcements by the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) as well as members of the science community that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a threat to public health and after this announcement was approved and/or endorsed by the HoPR.

The HoF’s session comes at the heels of the resignation on June 08 of its Speaker Keria Ibrahim after publicly denouncing the government’s decision to seek for Constitutional Interpretation to handle Ethiopia’s deferred election. Keria, a member of the TPLF executive, accused the ruling Propriety Party (PP), led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, of undermining the constitution and wanting to establish an authoritarian regime.

Her resignation was dismissed by the deputy speaker, Mohammed Rashid, as having no effect on the working procedures of the HoF, nor on the ongoing session. Mohammed further slammed the Speaker’s decision to speak to the media from Mekelle, the capital of Tigray regional state, instead of submitting her resignation in person using the appropriate channel.

Triple problems of CCI’s recommendations

Zemelak Ayitenew Ayele, Associate Professor and Director of Center for Federalism and Governance Studies at Addis Abeba University, says as it stands now CCI’s recommendation on the extension of the term limit “is not problematic” in and of itself. However, the recommendations have three major shortcomings, he said. “First, the CCI did not recommend putting a limit on the powers that the government can exercise during the extended period,” Zemelak, who was the first legal scholar to raise the constitutional hurdles of Ethiopia’s deferred election in an article published on Addis Standard, said. “The government is allowed to act as if it is within its term limit,” he told Addis Standard.

According to Zemelak, the second problem is CCI’s recommendations of putting “the government to be in charge of deciding if and when the sixth national elections would be held. It does not also seem to consider the possibility of holding the elections unless the COVID-19 is under control.  Yet we don’t know when this pandemic will be under control.” 

Zemelak added that the third problem with the the CCI’s recommendation is that “it did not require inclusivity form the government…to consult political parties and other stakeholders on public matters during the extended period.” AS 

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