Portugal’s former premier Antonio leading UN polls
United Nations, August 6: Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres maintained his lead in the second round of informal polls held here to elect the next UN Secretary General, even as hopes appear to fade for a woman to be elected for the first time as the world’s top diplomat. The powerful 15-nation UN Security Council held the second round of so-called straw polls yesterday. Diplomats said Guterres led the pack of 11 contenders, garnering 11 “encouraging” votes for his candidacy, two “discouraging” and two expressing “no opinion” on it.
Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the first straw poll that was conducted last month. Guterres was followed by Slovenia’s former president Danilo Turk and Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova, who serves as UNESCO Director-General in the first round.
The 2nd round saw former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic rising from the fourth spot to take second place, with eight votes encouraging him, four discouraging and three expressing no opinion. Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra moved up from the seventh place to third place in the second round, garnering eight encouraging votes, six discourages and one no opinion.
Bokova slipped from her original third place to fifth. New Zealand’s former prime minister and head of the UN Development Program Helen Clark remained on the number 7 position, behind Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia.
Croatia’s deputy parliament speaker Vesna Pusic withdrew her candidacy, saying the “selection has not gone in my direction”. She had come came last in the first ballot. Apart from increased call from UN member states to make the election process of the world’s top diplomat more transparent, there is a growing chorus for a woman to be elected for the top job. The UN has been headed by a male Secretary General in all of its 70-year history. However hopes for a woman to be elected are fading since no female candidate has emerged as the front-runner in the two straw polls conducted so far. The Council will continue to hold straw polls until there is a majority candidate without a single veto from a permanent member of the Council. That name is then officially transferred to the Assembly, whose membership historically chooses the candidate.
The current UN Chief Ban Ki-moon’s two-term tenure will expire on December 31 this year. No date has been announced for the next round. The election process for UN Secretary General has been unprecedented this year with the General Assembly taking a more active role in the selection process, aiming to make it more transparent and inclusive.
For the first time in history, the candidates were asked to submit their resumes and to take part in informal briefings with the Assembly. Along with the informal hearings, the UN had last month held its first-ever globally televised and webcast townhall-style debate in the General Assembly Hall, where 10 of the 12 confirmed candidates took questions from diplomats and the public at large.
The UN Charter says relatively little about how a Secretary-General is to be selected, aside from Article 97, which notes that the candidate “shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”. At its first session in 1946, the Assembly approved a resolution determining that the Council take the lead in the selection process, agree on a single name in a private meeting, and pass that name down to the Assembly for a vote.
Since 1946, the Council has discussed and voted behind closed doors in straw polls for members to ‘encourage’ or ‘discourage’ a candidate to continue. This process has come to be known as the ‘Wisnumurti Guidelines’, named after Ambassador Nugroho Wisnumurti of Indonesia who held the rotating presidency of the Council in November 1996 when the guidelines were set.