Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa becomes head of National Electoral Board

Birtukan Mideksa is Ethiopia’s electoral board chair after the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) approved her nomination by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

A former judge and leading opposition figure, who co-founded Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, Mideska returned to Ethiopia early this month from the United States after seven years in exile. Upon returning to Ethiopia, she joined the many opposition supporters and critics of the previous administration who have been compelled to return by the ongoing reforms.

Birtukan Mideksa was approved as head of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) with majority vote. Only four were against and three abstained.

Mideska’s appointment is the latest in a series of right moves by PM Ahmed, who has promised reforms and is walking the talk. He recently appointed renowned human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi as the country’s most senior judge.

He also made peace with neighbouring Eritrea after two decades of conflict, freed political prisoners and welcomed back armed opposition groups from exile. Also, half of the government’s 20 ministers are now women.

The 42-year-old leader had said at his inauguration in April that “a nation that neglects and marginalizes half of its population cannot move forward.”

Mideska faces a key challenge of restoring faith in Ethiopia’s electoral board, which has constantly faced accusations of state manipulation. She is expected to oversee free and fair elections in May 2020.