A senior civil servants' group has criticised the appointment of former Scottish first minister Jack McConnell as British High Commissioner to Malawi.
Mr McConnell was said to have extensive experience of Malawi
The First Division Association raised concern that it was carried out without an open selection process.
However the Foreign Office said it was not a unique appointment, and that he had extensive experience of the challenges facing Malawi.
Mr McConnell announced his resignation as Scottish Labour leader on Wednesday.
There has been a long history of political appointments to embassies and high commissions under both Conservative and Labour administrations.
Most recently former cabinet ministers Paul Boateng and Helen Liddle have been despatched to South Africa and Australia respectively.
But the First Division Association, which usually steers clear of controversy, claimed the McConnell appointment showed evidence of a worrying trend in offering politicians plum diplomatic posts.
The association's Paul Whiteman told the BBC: "We recognise that the government wants to encourage people to come in from outside [the diplomatic service].
"We don't object to that, we just purely say that these appointments have to be made on a fair and open basis and appointments be made on merit after open competition.
"If Mr McConnell has got very special skills and relationships that exist, that outweigh people that are already serving, then that's fine, but let's have it tested through open and fair competition."
In a statement, the Foreign Office said Mr McConnell's appointment was in line with the government's policy of recruiting appropriate skills and experience from all areas of public life.
As first minister, Mr McConnell forged new links between Scotland and Malawi.
He will also undertake an education project to help children in the country, as well as in Rwanda, on behalf of the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative.
The current high commissioner, Richard Wildash, is due to complete his tour in early 2009.