Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Picture: REUTERS
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Picture: REUTERS

Addis Ababa — Ethiopia's parliament postponed a national census for a second time on Monday, citing security concerns but potentially undermining logistics for the first election under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national vote some time in 2020, and the census — already postponed once from 2017 — is a crucial step towards demarcating constituencies.

But parliamentarians in both houses voted overwhelmingly to delay the census again by a year, due to an upsurge in ethnic conflicts that has forced 2.4-million Ethiopians out of their homes, according to UN figures.

"Our people are still displaced in many parts of the country," legislator Tesfaye Daba said. "Having this situation, I don't think it wise to conduct the census this year."

William Davison, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the decision would disrupt election logistics.

"Preparations for those polls are also behind schedule … this is, therefore, perhaps another indication that elections will be pushed back," he said.

The next vote will test Abiy's reformist agenda that has included ending hostilities with Eritrea, opening the economy to foreign investment and freeing political prisoners.

Parliament also postponed to Thursday debate on a proposed law to liberalise the telecoms sector.