Sat, Jul 23, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Portuguese tops poll for next head of the UN: sources


Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters in New York on April 12.

Photo: AFP

Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres topped the first informal poll to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1 next year, followed by former Slovenian president Danilo Turk.

Two diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the vote was secret, said three candidates had the same support for third place — Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, who heads UNESCO, former Serbian minister of foreign affairs Vuk Jeremic and former Macedonian minister of foreign affairs Srgjan Kerim.

The 15 council members did not reveal the results of their voting to “encourage,” “discourage,” or express “no opinion” about the 12 candidates — unlike the informal “straw” polls 10 years ago, which were made public and led to Ban’s election to the world’s top diplomatic post.

Despite the council’s efforts at secrecy, the results quickly leaked.

By tradition, the position has rotated among regions, with Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe all having held the top post.

East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn. There has also never been a woman secretary-general and a group of 56 nations are campaigning for the first female UN chief.

Bokova got nine “encourage” votes, the highest number for a woman, the diplomats said.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark was in fourth place with eight “encourage” votes.

Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs Susanna Malcorra, a former chief-of-staff to Ban who was expected to be a leading contender, was behind Clark, they said.

Guterres, who was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002 and served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees until the end of last year, received 12 “encourage” votes and three “no opinion” votes, the diplomats said.

Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santo Silva called the vote “an extremely positive result, given the great quality of the other candidates,” telling reporters in Washington: “It gives a clear incentive to the candidature of Mr Guterres and confirms that he’s particularly qualified for the position of secretary-general.”

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