Footage of an Ethiopian parliamentary session posted online on Saturday appeared to contradict official reports of the number of votes cast to validate the state of emergency, though government officials dismissed the discrepancy as a mistake.
On Friday, the House of People’s Representatives held an emergency session on state of emergency legislation imposed on Feb. 16, a day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s surprise resignation.
The state-run Ethiopian News Agency said on Friday that 395 lawmakers voted in favour of the bill, putting the government comfortably within the two-thirds majority needed to validate the state of emergency, which bans demonstrations and restricts publications that could incite violence.
Sources: In unprecedented show of rejection, 88 members of parliament, mostly from Oromia, voted against #Ethiopia’s state of emergency. 7 MPs abstained. Of 441 MPs present only 346 voted YES. State media reporting the decree was approved. This is not true. It was REJECTED. pic.twitter.com/h6zap9G5AP
— Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) March 2, 2018
But footage made public by the privately-owned Addis Standard news website showed parliamentary speaker Abadula Gemeda stating at the end of the session that 346 parliamentarians had voted in favour.
Abadula also appeared to have made a mathematical mistake, saying 339 was the required two-thirds of 539 seats.
In fact, a vote of 346 would be below the threshold needed if the two-thirds rule applied to the total number of seats, rather than the number of parliamentarians present.
According to Art. 93 (2) of the Ethiopian constitution, the emergency decree should be “approved by a two-thirds majority vote of members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives.”
The discrepancies sparked claims of vote fraud from the opposition.
“It is nothing less than rigging – another example of the workings of the ruling party,” Beyene Petros, an opposition party leader and former parliamentarian, told Reuters.
Speaking to state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation late on Saturday, parliamentary speaker Abadula said 395 was the correct number of votes in favour of the legislation.
The dispute could become yet another battleground in a country where unrest was triggered over land rights, before broadening into protests over marginalization.