January 12, 2020 / 5:19 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Ethiopian PM Abiy expects parliamentary election in May or June

(Adds Nile dam comments, Ramaphosa)

CAPE TOWN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Ethiopia will hold a parliamentary election in May or June despite concerns about security and logistics, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday.

The election will be the first under Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy, who took office in April 2018 and launched political and economic reforms.

His reform agenda has also stoked violence and highlighted ethnic divisions in the country of about 105 million people, and the election board said last June that the security situation could delay the 2020 election.

“On the schedule, I am not sure whether it is May or June, because the schedule will be declared by the election board but I think we will conduct an election this year because it is a constitutional mandate,” Abiy, who is visiting South Africa, said in response to a question at a media briefing with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“There might be lots of challenges, not only logistics but also peace and security ... It is better for Ethiopians and for Ethiopian parties to conduct the election on time in a very peaceful and democratic manner,” he said.

Opposition politicians have warned against any delay in the election, and critics have said that postponing the vote could cause an adverse social reaction, fuel regional conflicts and damage Abiy’s democratic credentials.

Ethiopia has regularly held elections since 1995 but, with the exception of the 2005 election, no election has been competitive.

Abiy also said Ethiopia hoped Ramaphosa, who next month assumes a one-year chairmanship of the African Union continental body, would help broker a deal with Egypt over deadlocked talks to develop a new $4 billion dam on the Nile River.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are due to convene on Monday in Washington with the aim of resolving their disagreements by Jan. 15 over the massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building.

“He (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt, also as incoming AU chair he can make a discussion between both parties so as to solve the issue peacefully,” Abiy said.

The dam dispute has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia.

“I believe a solution is possible,” said Ramaphosa. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Timothy Heritage and Frances Kerry)

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