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The Latest Challenge to the Administration of Ethiopia’s Abiy

People have begun voting in a local election in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, defying the federal government and increasing political tensions in Africa’s second-most populous country. Tigray officials holding polls on Wednesday for the 190-seat regional parliament have warned that any intervention by the federal government would amount to a “declaration of war”. They have objected to the postponement of the national and regional elections, originally scheduled for August, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the extension of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s time in office. Ethiopia’s upper house of parliament, which mediates constitutional disputes, ruled on Saturday that the polls for regional parliaments and other positions were unconstitutional. Tigray has dominated Ethiopian politics since the region’s governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), led an armed struggle to remove the communist Derg government in 1991. Leaders from the ethnic group, which makes up only 6 percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million population, went on to dominate Ethiopia’s politics for nearly 30 years. But that ended after anti-government protests swept Abiy to power in 2018.