(photo credit: COURTESY IBA)
The Central Election Committee on Monday ruled that Tsega Melaku, the number-three candidate and highest-ranking woman on Moshe Kahlon’s Koolanu list, was not eligible to run in the upcoming election.
Doubts surfaced two weeks ago about the eligibility of Melaku because she was employed at the state-owned Israel Broadcasting Authority. Melaku, an Ethiopian immigrant, was manager of the IBA’s Reshet Alef for three years before becoming an editor at Reka, Israel Radio’s foreign-language channel.
According to the election law, state workers must have a 100-day “cooling off” period before an election, which would have been December 18, 2014. Melaku had requested a leave of absence instead of quitting the job altogether. Her position was of sufficiently high rank on the day of the deadline to bar her from running, Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran ruled, though he seemed to regret having to rule against her running.
“I acknowledge that my decision harms the legal right of Ms. Melaku to stand for elections. Further, it seems that the wider public, with special focus on the Ethiopian community in Israel, would have benefited if Ms. Melaku had run in the elections and were selected to lead as a Knesset Member,” he wrote in his decision. Despite having 135,000 citizens, the Ethiopian community has been underrepresented in Knesset throughout the years, he said.
Koolanu said it regretted the decision, arguing that Melaku was no longer in a senior position at the IBA, but stated that it would honor the ruling.
“The Koolanu party sees in the social activist Tsega Melaku, who represents a large community and is a symbol of success in social struggles, a significant and important asset, and thus believed it was correct to give her a high rank on the list,” the party wrote in a statement.
“We believe that Melaku will continue to contribute significantly to the party in other ways.”
Koolanu had promised to seek rough gender parity in its list, but when it presented its top 11 candidates, only four were women. With Melaku off the list, their representation falls to 30%.