ADDIS ABEBA – National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has finally got its board members after waiting for months to fill in its four vacant spots.
The members were sworn in on Thursday after lawmakers approved Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s four nominees for the vacant positions.
The new members are Wubshet Ayele, Bizuwork Ketete, Getahun Kassa and Abera Degefu. They join Birtukan Mideksa to serve as permanent employees of the board.
Abiy appointed Birtukan last November as head of the board preparing for the next national elections, scheduled for 2020.
Newly appointed Wubeshet has also been appointed to serve as deputy chairperson of the Board. The new board members are hailed from the four regions governed by parties that form the ruling coalition.
One of the newly approved board members, Wubeshet said, “We are given a huge responsibility today” to help hold the country host free and fair elections. “We will make sure the board remains neutral in all of its endeavors,” he added.
– Months of Preparation –
Finding the board members took several months, leaving the chairperson of the election body, Birtukan, frustrated.
She told MPs last month that not having full members has incapacitated the board’s preparation for the upcoming national as well as regional elections.
Over the past 30 days, however, the whole process got momentum.
The recruiting committee, led by Dr. Meshesha Shewarega, managed to bring in eight nominees for the prime minister to choose from and nominate for Thursday’s approval, last week.
The shortlist includes, apart from those who got approved, Megabi Zerihun Degu, Melaku Sebhat Bedane, Berhane Moges Fikir, and Demoze Mamo,
– Affiliates’ upset –
After a meeting with opposition parties, who had little say due to their lack of seat at the parliament, the PM presented his four nominees for their eventual approval.
The four have been approved with a majority vote and 17 members voting nay. The majority of MPs voting against were from affiliated parties of EPRDF.
They felt at least one of the spots should have left for their region.
“I don’t think this process has been neutral and impartial as it does not include residents of the regions led by the affiliate parties,” said MP Shukri.
The government’s whip to the parliament said he understands the situation. But he said, “the nomination process does not take ethnicity as main criteria”.
Abiy’s ruling coalition or EPRDF has been in power in Ethiopia since 1991. The coalition and its affiliated parties are currently holding all seats in parliament.
‘Lack of info’
Opposition parties expressed their suspicion regarding the neutrality of the nominees, even though they welcomed their meeting with Abiy before the nominees’ approval.
“Personally, I know one of the eight candidates in the shortlist,” Beyene Petross (Prof), chairperson of an opposition party, told The Daily Monitor.
Most of the attendants too had little information about the nominees, he added.
“Their profile, read to us at the meeting, does not induce trust as well,” he said, adding their CV indicates ‘that majority of them were working for the ruling coalition.
“During the meeting, we asked the prime minister to give us more time to check their background and give our informed input on the matter. But that question was not accepted,” he added.
The Prime Minister has already pledged to open up a political arena dominated by his coalition and said the 2020 national election will be free and fair.