ETHIOPIA: 2020 ELECTIONS WILL BE FREE – PM ABIY AHMED

ADDIS ABABA--Ethiopia's prime minister said an election due for 2020 would be free and should not be delayed by his sweeping reforms to the African nation's politics, economy and diplomacy.

Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April, has pledged to open up the state-dominated economy and has taken steps to end decades of hostility with neighboring Eritrea � moves that could reshape the country and the broader Horn of Africa region.

Speaking at a press conference, he said elections, due in 2020, should not be delayed until the reforms he has announced are completed.

He said the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition's focus next year would be on preparations for free elections to be held.

Abiy has promised to give more room to opponents in a nation of 100 million where no opposition lawmakers sit in parliament.

He has lifted a state of emergency put in place after his predecessor resigned in February following three years of protests in which hundreds were killed by security forces.

The World Bank and other donors suspended budgetary help following a vote in 2005 that was disputed by the opposition and accompanied by violence that killed 200 people.

The ruling coalition, in power since ousting dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, has long been accused by the opposition of crushing dissent, a charge it had denied, though Abiy has spoken frankly since taking office about past abuses.

Some political dissidents have voiced scepticism about change as long as Abiy's EPRDF remains in power.

Protests that led to the resignation of his predecessor were partly driven by Ethiopia's disillusioned youth, suffering high levels of unemployment. Although it has been one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia's export sector - mainly garment manufacturing and farming - has struggled, meaning the economy is not generating enough dollars to pay for imports.

The dollar shortages have been exacerbated by the government's massive investment in infrastructure over the last decade.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK