Image credit: International IDEA
"Coming into my role, I had a good measure of confidence in my abilities and what I’d bring to the [National Electoral] Board. However, after gaining a deeper understanding of the behemoth of tasks NEBE has before it in terms of managing the upcoming elections from [International IDEA] facilitators as well as hearing experiences of my contemporaries from other African countries by way of the orientation, I am now, more than ever, confident that I would be able to dispense my duties with the utmost professionalism and expertise.” Newly appointed Board Member Bizuwork Teketel made these comments during an orientation programme for the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) organized by International IDEA from 26 to 29 June 2019 in Addis Ababa.
Following the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in April 2018, Ethiopia embarked on a wide range of legal, institutional and policy reforms. In November 2018, renowned former federal judge and politician, Birtukan Midekssa was appointed as the new Chairperson of the Board. Her appointment was followed by the promulgation of a new law establishing the NEBE in April 2019. The law provides a new process for the nomination and appointment of five board members and a framework to ensure neutrality, independence and professionalism in electoral management. On 13 June 2019, the national legislature approved the appointment of the four outstanding board members following the new nomination process.
Professional electoral administrators are key to delivering well-organized, credible and genuine elections. Despite strong credentials and distinguished reputations for integrity in their respective fields and previous positions, newly appointed election officials often lack knowledge of key issues in electoral administration. To respond to such a need, International IDEA developed an orientation curriculum for the newly appointed electoral commissioners, which has been implemented at both regional and national levels on the African continent since 2012.
The orientation programme for the NEBE brought together all five board members and other new NEBE staff. With Ethiopia due to hold national and regional elections for an estimated 45 million eligible voters in May 2020, the nascent NEBE will have to combine preparing for complex elections in a rapidly changing political environment with institutional development. The elections are also set take place under a new legal framework with the national legislature currently working on a new electoral law.
Over the course of the four days, the orientation equipped the board members with knowledge and skills to carry out their tasks. Participants benefited from the experience of former electoral commissioners and other senior electoral officials who were on hand to offer advice and share their invaluable experience on topics ranging from electoral operations and electoral risk management to managing political pressure from stakeholders. Moreover, the event gave board members the opportunity to brainstorm on solutions to existing challenges and build networks that will assist them in the future.
At the end of the programme, the board members committed to applying their newly acquired knowledge to ensure that the elections are managed in a professional manner that meets international standards.