Ethiopia: Pre-Election Technical Assessment, May 1994
From February 28 through March 8, 1994, Keith Klein, Director of Programs for Africa and the Near East at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) visited Ethiopia to carry out a pre-election assessment and technical consultation. This visit was undertaken at the request of USAID/Ethiopia and with funding from the Agency for International Development (A.J.D.). The primary objectives of the mission were to (I) assess the preparations being made by the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) for Constituent Assembly elections scheduled to be held on June 5, 1994; (2) make recommendations to USAID Ethiopia on technical and material needs of the NEBE in the period prior to the June 5 election and in the longer term; and (3) propose activities that IFES might undertake in cooperation with USAID Ethiopia to meet some of the short-term and long-term needs of the NEBE.
Mr. Klein met with the Chairman of the NEBE and with the Executive Secretary and his senior staff members in Addis Ababa. Many of these meeting were held jointly with Mr. Joe Baxter, a U.S. election administrator who was in Ethiopia simultaneously with Mr. Klein on an election assessment mission for the UNDP. Mr. Klein also met with some representatives of political parties and of the NGO and diplomatic communities in Addis Ababa, and with officials at the U.S. Embassy and the USAID mission.
At the time of Mr. Klein's visit, the voter registration period began. This step in the preparations for the June 5 election began nearly three weeks later than originally scheduled by the NEBE, because of delays in the distribution of registration material. This delay, and the short amount of time remaining before the June election date, called into question the NEBE's capacity to successfully prepare the materials and the personnel required for a successful election in June. After extensive meetings with the NEBE's staff and discussion of the election calendar and the current status of preparations, it was the assessment of Mr. Klein (and Mr. Baxter) that it was within the capability of the NEBE to successfully carry out a technically credible election in June 1994. This would require, however, strict observance of the remaining deadlines in the revised election calendar.
The political legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly election has been called into question by a number of political parties and other groups in Ethiopia, for a variety of reasons. Clearly, the election's success in terms of selecting a Constituent Assembly that is truly reflective of the groupings and opinions of the Ethiopian people will be contingent on the degree of political party and voter participation in the campaign and the vote. In early March, the degree of participation was still unclear. It is incumbent on the NEBE and the Transitional Government of Ethiopia to make all reasonable efforts to ensure wide participation in the election both by political parties and voters across the political spectrum and in all regions.
This report identifies a series of potential problems in the period remaining prior to the June election, to be closely watched both by the NEBE and by the external community_ The most notable benchmarks are the dates when (I) the ballots are delivered to the printers; (2) the polling station kits, including the ballots, are ready for distribution; and (3) the dates that the polling station kits reach the 548 constituencies.
The report also makes recommendations to both the NEBE and the donor community on ways to strengthen the electoral process in Ethiopia, before the June 5 election, and more importantly, in the period following the Constituent Assembly election and before the probable 1995 national elections to be held under the new constitution. The pre-election needs are mainly in the areas of transportation and communication. In the post-election period, it is highly recommended that the NEBE undertake some form of self-evaluation of the 1994 election process, so that it can apply the lessons learned to its preparations for 1995. It is also recommended the NEBE follow the evaluation with a process of strategic planning for its institution-building goals over the next twelve months. The donor community should consider assisting both this planning exercise and the implementation of the resulting objectives and activities.