Portugal’s Antonio Guterres tops third poll for UN chief

By: | Published: August 30, 2016 1:48 PM

Portugal's former premier Antonio Guterres has emerged as a clear front-runner to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, maintaining his lead in the third straw poll held here, as hopes of a woman being elected to the top post were fading.

Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the previous two rounds of informal voting as well. (Reuters)Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the previous two rounds of informal voting as well. (Reuters)

Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres has emerged as a clear front-runner to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, maintaining his lead in the third straw poll held here, as hopes of a woman being elected to the top post were fading.

Guterres garnered 11 encourage, three discourage and one no opinion ballot when the 15-nation Security Council held the third round of straw polls yesterday.

These straw polls continue 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.

Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the previous two rounds of informal voting as well.

The largest change has been Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcák moving from the 10th position to second with 9 encourage votes, five discourage and one no opinion.

In joint third place is former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and Director-General of UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO Irina Bokova, both getting seven encourage votes, five discourage and three no opinion.

Apart from the 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 of a woman being elected are fading since no female candidate has emerged as the front-runner.

UN General Assembly President, who has pushed for making the UNSG selection process transparent, underscored in a statement, that the “informal nature” of the straw polls and stressed that “the absence of any further details beyond the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place adds little value and does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency.”

Current Secretary-General Ban is the eighth occupant of the top post in the organisation’s 70-year history.

He took office in January 2007 and will be ending his 10-year tenure on December 31, 2016.

Under the UN Charter, the organisation’s top official is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Council.

The remaining candidates have all dropped from their positions in the previous straw polls.

Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra dropped from the 3rd spot to 5th, followed by former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim, and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Programme.

The last three positions in the ranking of 10 have former Slovenian President Danilo Turk, Moldova’s former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica. 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.

Civil society campaign founded to rally support for a woman Secretary General ‘Woman SG Campaign’ expressed shock and disappointment at the results of the third straw polls, saying the Security Council fails to give serious consideration to the imperative of selecting a woman to lead the UN.

“The ongoing straw poll results demonstrate a clear disrespect for the highly qualified female candidates for UN Secretary-General. The Council is apparently not prepared to bring the UN into the Twenty-first Century,” it said in a statement.

The campaign said even though the UN has committed itself to gender equity, yet the members of the Security Council seem to think “this moral commitment” does not apply to them.

It noted that while Bokova and Malcorra continue to be in the top five according to the third straw poll results, they are still in third and fifth place.

The group said it is “outrageous” that Gherman and Figueres have now been placed at the very bottom.

“All these women are outstanding with very strong credentials in every respect. We urge the Security Council to uphold their own mandate…that calls on the Organisation to place women in top UN positions. The Council has allowed geopolitics, not consideration of merit, to dictate the selection of the UN’s next leader. Their moral compass seems to have been left forgotten in a bottom drawer,” it said.

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