Elections are trends of voting by its nature. They are statistically and sociologically explicated. The number of political parties, potential voters, civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in civic and voter education and election observation, public and private media, international observers and their behavior are inputs for democratic elections. The election process is pivotal in every aspect to determine the advancement or set back of a democratization process of a country. At the heart of election process are voter registration, political party campaigning, voter and civic education, election observation, voting, and peaceful transfer of political power. These are pulmonary and arteries, which provide legitimated power and confidence to the democratization process and consolidation as well. Such artery is not only affected by non-democratic election processes, but also by natural diseases such as corona virus.
Many American states are postponing their presidential primary elections due to the spread of corona virus. English local and mayoral elections have already been postponed for a year. Ethiopia is also postponing its elections. These elections have been cancelled because of the countries inability overhaul the key elements of elections – pulmonary and bronchial arteries of democratic elections.
Almost every country in the world is now engaged in scaling down the escalation of the scourge of corona virus in its domain. Countries such as China and Cuba also understood the borderless and cruel nature of this disease as a result of which medical professionals of both countries have been deployed to curb the curse of this disease in Italy. France, German and the UK have extended their financial and medical help to Iran in its effort to hold back the plague.
President Trump has already activated his National Guard in hardest hit states. Spain called for “EU Marshall Plan” to battle the proliferation of this virus. The “Abiy Ahmed – Jack Ma Initiative” is reaching out to African states through the provision of masks and testing kits. To every one’s surprise, in its “first safety approach”, the brutal ISIS advised its members not to travel to corona-stricken places. The vindictiveness of corona is borderless.
Covid-19 will stay here for a long time. It will cause misery to million until then. The world is struggling in the hunt for apposite vaccines. Corona is easily spread due to human movement. Because of “squalor and poor health systems”, “astronomical transmission” of corona will occur. It can span everywhere within minutes. Its incubation period made it difficult to differentiate an infected person from a normal one. A country’s national health chain is very critical in strengthening the global health chain. The world is at war on corona virus. Any country in the world should focus on battling this pandemic. That is most countries and states in the world, including Ethiopia, are closing their borders. Human movement is the heyday for pandemic diseases. “Ridding the world of lethal and debilitating diseases” is the priority of the day. Political engagements that risk the right to life must be avoided until safe movements are ensured.
In a recently unpublished public opinion survey by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Institute for Strategic Affairs (ISA), more than 92% of the respondents are likely to vote on the upcoming 2020 national elections in Ethiopia. Here, it is very important to discuss about the would-be psephology of this election as it is expected to involve more than 50 million potential voters. The major election activities including post-election events involve millions.
The Corona is surely to impact the voting behavior. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is heavily prepared to lead the next election. But the preparation of voters is at stake. It takes two to dance a tango. The political pilgrims, voters, will be reluctant at this time. Given the ongoing political reform in Ethiopia, the Government is expected to invite international election observers. No one is coming during corona-time elections. This shows how corona is impacting this widely accepted international norm. Because of democracy and electoral assistance, a number of civic organizations are prepared to conduct voter/civic education and observe elections. But to whom they are providing these programs? Voter education/civic education and election observation, some of the election respiratory tracts, are being heavily impacted.
Voters’ registration, political party campaigning and balloting are part of the universal suffrage. Voter’s registration is an instrument that enables election management bodies to verify the eligibility of voters. It will also enable prevent voting multiple times. This process is the basis for the Election Day activities. The Election Day is a platform for the reflection of the political will of potential voters. But this is not easy during Covided times.
Election campaigns are very important for the political parties and their candidates to present their agendas and political programs to the wider voters. It provides opportunities for open and free discussions. It will help voters decide their preferences based on informed judgments. But corona practically, unlike social distancing, extremely distances campaigners and voters.
Elections are statutory, as they have been fixed by constitutions to be held on a regular basis. This is the date voters preferences are expressed through secrete ballots. This is where the future of the country is being shaped. That is why both domestic and international observers are needed. If voters’ registration and political party campaigning are Covided, one can be sure about a very minimal psephology of the election turnout. 50, 000 polling stations, 50 million voters, and 300,000 polling workers are not compatible with the current virology. The election also requires wider political spaces in terms of avenues, opportunities and entry points available for citizens to express their voice and influence political processes and outcomes. Ethiopians have been struggling to ensure a wider political space for the last 27 years prior to 2018.These avenues and opportunities are associated with voters’ registration, campaigning and election education. Corona has already embargoed its state of emergency for which we accept it involuntarily. It is a natural dictatorship that one cannot fight with guerrilla fighters and protests. It can only be fought with social distancing. So it highly affects political space until we effectively and tolerably implement social distancing and get rid of it. The postponement of election as the NEBE suggested it is a perfect decision.
Ed.’s Note: Leulseged Girma is a researcher at Institute for Strategic Affairs (ISA). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter Magazine and ISA.