Ethiopian lawmakers called next week’s election in the northern Tigray region unconstitutional and vowed not to recognize the results, further increasing political tensions in the Horn of Africa nation.

The country’s upper house of parliament, the House of Federation, on Saturday called the formation of an electoral board in the region illegal and said any actions taken by it would be unenforceable, state-controlled Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The Tigray election is the latest headache for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has embarked Africa’s second most-populous nation on a reform path to open up the economy and political arena after decades of repression. On Thursday, Tigray’s regional government called any attempt to stop the election a “declaration of war” and boycotted Saturday’s House of Federation session, accusing the upper house of failing to disclose the meeting agenda.

National elections, which had been scheduled for August and were being touted as a key test of Abiy’s reforms, were postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that Tigray’s government called unconstitutional. In June, Ethiopian lawmakers whose mandate was set to end in October voted to extend their terms until the poll takes place.

The House of Federation’s decision “reaffirms its stance that Tigray’s election is unconstitutional,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Ethiopia. “That paves the way for the federal government to take measures against Tigray.”

Subsidies to the state of Tigray from federal government were 10.4 billion birr ($285 million), according to the 476 billion 2020-21 financial year budget.

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The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, TPLF, the region’s ruling party, was once the pre-eminent party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF. Today, it is in opposition to the prime minister’s Prosperity Party, which was formed last year without the inclusion of the TPLF. Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy has sidelined the TPLF and consolidated power under his own party.

Approximately 3 million people are expected to vote in the Sept. 9 regional election, according to the newly formed Tigray Regional Electoral Commission, and results are expected by Sept. 13. Five parties are participating, including the TPLF and other smaller regional parties such as the Tigray Independence Party, which advocates for the secession of the region from Ethiopia. The Prosperity Party and the Tigray Democratic Party are both boycotting the elections.

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