Ethiopia’s newly appointed elections board chief, Birtukan Mideksa has pledged to make the board’s work ‘transparent and trustworthy’.
Mideksa, whose nomination by the prime minister Abiy Ahmed was approved by the country’s parliament on Thursday, called on the media to support the board as it takes on the task of organising credible elections.
“What Ethiopians endured have prepared us to ask the right questions including through the ballot box,” she told the state-affiliated Fana news agency.
What Ethiopians endured have prepared us to ask the right questions including through the ballot box.
A controversial choice?
Mideksa, once one of Ethiopia’s most high profile prisoners, had been convicted of trying to overthrow the state after crowds took to the streets accusing the government of rigging the 2005 vote.
She was pardoned in 2007 after Amnesty International, other rights groups and some Western powers pressed for her release. But the pardon was revoked and her life sentence resumed a year later, until another pardon in 2010.
Mideksa only returned to Ethiopia weeks ago, responding to an amnesty announced by Abiy, who also defended her before lawmakers that questioned her independence.
“She might have her own opinions and sayings like anyone, but we believe she will act according to the constitution,” he said after several MPs raised concerns about her impartiality given her role in opposition politics.
This becomes the latest top position to go to a woman after SahleWork Zewde was named president and Abiy chose women to fill half his cabinet posts last month.
After parliament overwhelmingly approved the nomination, Mideksa was sworn in by Meaza Ashenafi, a women’s rights activist who was appointed president of the Supreme Court three weeks ago.
“(Birtukan is) overseeing not only an election but a transition, from an authoritarian state to a democratic one, a transition to an accountable government,” Addis Ababa-based political analyst Hallelujah Lulie said.