Election board head takes over embassy job, amidst question about the appropriateness

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A week ago it was announced that Merga Bekana has been awarded the job of ambassador to Sweden. Merga, a 60-year-old Wellega native, has served as a chairman of the so-called independent national electoral board of Ethiopia for eight years, though often criticised for his unconditional support and loyalty for the regime. His nomination, as part of part of eleven ambassador nominations has prompted several reaction and comments. Two years ago, the ruling party claimed to win all 567 parliamentary seats, in an election Merga said “culminated in a free, fair and peaceful, credible, and democratic manner.”
Merga would come to the job in Sweden with no diplomatic experience, question surrounding the appropriateness of his nomination, and the distinction of being the administration’s first non-party affiliated ambassador nominee. While most of the nominees are political appointees, and serving the ruling party loyally, and few career diplomats, Merga comes from an institution that claims to be an independent and autonomous organ for conducting elections. However, for many, the foreign posting confirms the widely held notion that the electoral board was not that independent, and the man who was running it was rewarded for his service for the regime. “Professor Merga Bekana, are you really happy with your current achievements? Your current assignment as an ambassador clearly indicates that you were not neutral during your service as a neutral electoral authority of Ethiopia,” a certain Genet Asfaw wrote on her Facebok page. “He told us he is neutral from any political party ….Can’t to stop laughing. What a stupidity we have seen. I wish to see the end of this madness and dirty political game,” Getachew Genetu reacted on his Facebook page.
Mulugeta Aregawi, a teacher of Constitution and Media Law at the Addis Ababa University told the Amharic service of the Voice of America that he sees no problem for the state to name him ambassador legally, but he admitted that political question could be raised. “Nothing in the constitution indicates if it is possible or not” he said. Approached by Ethiopia Observer, a blogger close to the regime defended the action saying that Merga is the right person for the position, as he knows the country, where he did PHD from the Swedish university of Agricultural science.

Arefayné Fantahun
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