The appointment was announced a month after media speculation that Hafström, Sweden’s current ambassador to Thailand and a former close aide to Carl Bildt, would be given the Washington job without going through a recruitment procedure.
Jonas Hafström has previously worked at the Swedish embassies in Tehran and Washington. He was also played a major part in the 2004 tsunami catastrophe in Thailand in which hundreds of Swedes perished. Unlike many others, he received praise from the Catastrophe Commission for his role in the rescue operation.
Thursday’s news met with criticism from members of the opposition, who claimed that the current government’s appointment policies mirrored those of its predecessors despite promises of change.
“For one thing it is notable that they did not advertise the position and follow the relevant foreign office procedures.
“And one can also note that the appointment is in line with what they have done so far: there have been nothing but party colleagues,” said Berit Andnor, chairman of the parliamentary constitutional committee.
Moderate member of parliament Per Bill responded later in the day by pointing out that Dan Eliasson, appointed as new director general of the Migration Board on Thursday morning, is a member of Andnor’s own party.
“The appointments of Dan Eliasson and Jonas Hafström show that the centre-right government, unlike the previous Social Democrat government, is not in the business of the political appointment of party colleagues,” he said in a statement.
But Social Democrat Peter Hultqvist was quick to remind the government that it had vowed to do away with the current appointment system.
“Clearly they are not following their own guidelines. It is pure hypocrisy to rail against our appointments during the election campaign and then do exactly the same thing themselves,” he said.