Germany is nominating Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for a new term as the head of the World Health Organization, the health ministry said on Wednesday, reports AFP.
With Germany’s nomination secured, the 56-year-old former health minister appeared to be the only person in the race a day before the deadline for submissions on Thursday.
Tedros was elected as the head of WHO in 2017 and became the first African to take the helm of the UN health agency.
He has not yet confirmed that he was a candidate for a second five-year term, but a number of diplomatic sources said he would stand.
Tedros enjoys relative popularity over his role in steering the WHO’s efforts to coordinate the tumultuous global pandemic response, and even if other candidates were put forward at the last minute, he was widely expected to come out on top.
But his candidacy had been complicated after Ethiopia allegedly withdrew its support over the conflict in his home region of Tigray.
Candidates for the UN health body’s top slot are generally nominated by their home countries.
In principle though any WHO member state can back any candidate and Tedros had been widely expected to receive support from at least one country.
But Germany’s nomination came as a surprise.
Most observers had predicted that the backing would come from African countries, which have generally been happy to have one of their own in such an important position.
Diplomats had suggested that at least one or more countries on the continent would be willing to risk facing Ethiopian anger and back him.
Ethiopia itself has not officially said it will not back Tedros, but several sources said the country had clearly signalled it was withdrawing its support for his candidacy.
As the world’s highest-profile Tigrayan, Tedros has fallen foul of the government in Addis Ababa by repeatedly using his platform to condemn the crackdown in his home region.
WHO member states have until 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Thursday to nominate director-general candidates, but the UN health agency is not expected to announce who is on the list until early November.
If there is more than one candidate, an initial screening process will begin in January 2022 to create a shortlist of no more than five candidates.
Member states will vote for the next WHO chief through a secret ballot during the World Health Assembly in May.