Is nation ready to automate voting system?
Accepting the necessity of putting in place automated voting system aimed at preventing vote rigging in Ethiopia, the existing infrastructure needs to be readied for making use of this technology apart from reaching a common understanding about the system among stakeholders, so comment experts.
The newly elected Ethiopian National Electoral Board ( ENEB) Chairperson Birtukan Mideksa has recently been quoted as saying: “ The board is in process to introduce automated voting system in the forthcoming sixth general elections.”On various occasions , Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has also been repeatedly underlining the need for using automated voting system amid electoral fraud.
“The so far conducted elections had been sparking unrest and causing mistrust among the competing parties and the public at large. First of all ,this board is tasked to avert illegal interference with the process of an election with a view to building trust among the government, competing parties and electorates,” Birtukan made this remark after her nomination as ENEB Chairperson.
Moreover, she stated that the board would do its level best to make the upcoming elections credible by all starting from the voter registration up to the announcement of election results.
As many agree that the major drawbacks behind the previous elections were dispuited regulations, absence of impartial electoral board and disagreement among competing parties to solve problems through discussion.
Applying automated voting system is crucial to hold free ,fair and credible elections as it will definitely build trust among parties, believes Manaye Zegeye, Civic and Ethical Education Lecturer and Legal Advisor at Addis Ababa Univesity.
However, he is so skeptical about the country’s capability to set up the system in the shortest remaining time as the country is left with almost one and half year to conduct its general elections. “ It takes time to develop knowledge and skills to implement the technology in the coming elections due to be held in less two years .”
Plus, if it is possible to use the system, competing parties need to have some time to agree on the implementation of automated voting system before the election ,he adds..
As to him, the main challenge of the country, related to election ,is not the voting system , it is indulging in power abuse after elections
Kaba Mekonnen ,Senior Communication Expert at ENEB, states that various efforts are being exerted to hold free , fair and credible election through implementing advanced software to hold automated election.
As to him, the board had sent five experts to Zimbabwe for a week-long training in line with sharing experience about automated voting [from the ‘successful’ presidential election that the country recently conducted].
The experts have understood that the system is supportive to hold free election that has the unanimous acceptance of contesting parties, he says.
To facilitate conditions, the board is working with various stakeholders including Ethio-telecom, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University and National Information Security Agency, he mentions.
“The effort is to prevent any vote rigging in the next general elections.”
However, apart from the undergoing preparations to use the technology, Kaba doubts the present capacity of the nation to fully implement the system as it requires time, capital and knowledge.
In any case, the board is doing its level best to facilitate conditions for advanced election system whereas it needs the conformity of all parties, he notes.
The board is also making reform through revising regulations and its structure and the new chairperson is also recruiting her new board members, according to him.
Ultimately, efforts are underway to advance the next general elections with automated voting system despite the experts’ reservation in its full implementation.
Herald December 11/2018
BY YOHANES JEMANEH