The Tigray region in northern Ethiopia will head to polls on Wednesday, 9th September in defiance of the central government, the latest challenge to PM Abiy Ahmed from a slew of regional leaders flexing their muscles ahead of next year’s national elections.
Tigray, a region whose leaders dominated previous administration have often bitterly denounced PM Abiy, said it would hold elections whatever the cost.
“We know that there is an open threat by Abiy to militarily intervene against Tigray and to cut funds, but we will still go ahead with the vote.” said former federal minister and now spokesman of the Tigray People’ Liberation Front, Getachew Reda. “We know there will be consequences.”
Abiy has given little away about his plans. A spokeswoman for his office said in a text message that the vote will provoke a constitutional response.
A report by the International Crisis Group think tank warned last month that the two sides were on a “collision course”, it said that “if Tigray proceeds, Abiy’s government is ready to consider any new regional administration illegitimate.”
Tigrayans are only a small minority in Ethiopia’s 110 million people, but have dominated power since 1991, when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front drove a Marxist military dictator from power. The Front was a coalition of four ethnically-based parties.
Last year three of the four excluding Tigary People Liberation Front joined a new coalition to form the new Prosperity Party under Abiy. The Tigrayans refused. Some said they felt persecuted – many officials who have appeared on trial since Abiy took office are Tigrayan.