Guterres tops third ballot of UN leadership vote

30 Aug 16

Former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres has topped the third ballot in the race to succeed Ban Ki Moon as head of the United Nations.


Antonio Gutteres

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres topped the third ballot to be the next secretary general of the UN

In the third secret leadership poll, held on Monday, Guterres received the most positive votes, while Miroslav Lajčák, the Slovak foreign minister, was a surprise runner up.

The UN security council members vote in a series of ‘straw polls’ until a consensus is reached on a candidate. Members can vote to either “encourage”, “discourage” or express “no opinion” on each candidate.

Guterres, who has been the UN’s high commissioner for refugees for ten years, received 11 encourage votes, which is the same number as in the previous poll on August 5. However, the number of members who give him a discourage vote rose from two to three, with one member expressing no opinion.

Lajčák, who had languished in tenth place out of eleven candidates at the last vote, shot up the field to second place in Monday’s poll. Despite Guterres’ significant lead, it is felt in some quarters that Lajčák could be a compromise candidate, since some members, particularly Russia, feel the next UN secretary-general should hail from Eastern Europe.

Guterres’ coronation may yet hinge on Russia. As one of the permanent members of the security council along with the UK, China, the US and France, Russia has the power to veto a candidate. This group of five must all give their assent before a candidate is finally approved.

In joint third place were Vuk Jeremic, a former Serbian foreign minister, and Irina Bokova, former Bulgarian foreign minister and director-general of UNESCO. Bokova is the last realistic prospect for those hoping a woman would lead the UN for the first time.

A fourth straw poll is expected in September, and it is hoped a consensus will form around a winner by October. 


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