UN Holds First Secret Ballot to Decide Next Secretary-General

The General Assembly sought to lift veil of secrecy that shrouds the election process, but 5 nations that hold veto in the Security Council will ultimately decide the candidate—which for the first time in UN history might be a woman.

Rodrigo Campos and Michelle Nichols
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UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon addresses the 70th session of the general assembly. September 28, 2015Credit: AP
Rodrigo Campos and Michelle Nichols

REUTERS – The United Nations Security Council held its first secret ballot on Thursday in a bid to whittle down the 12 candidates vying to be the next Secretary-General, but despite attempts to make the process more transparent the results will not be made public.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon steps down at the end of 2016 after two five-year terms.

The 193-member UN General Assembly has this year sought to lift a veil of secrecy that has surrounded the election of the UN chief for the past 70 years by requiring public nominations and holding campaign-style town hall events with each candidate.

However it is the 15-member Security Council which will choose a candidate to recommend to the General Assembly for election later this year. The council will continue to hold closed-door informal secret ballots until they reach consensus.

On Thursday, council members were given a ballot for each candidate with the options of encourage, discourage and no opinion. The nominating states will be told of the results for their candidate, but overall results will not be made public.

The search for a successor to Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, has sparked a push by more than a quarter of the 193 UN states for the world body's first female leader, and half of the current candidates are women.

"This is a recruitment process. Like any other recruitment process it needs to be done respecting the confidentiality of the candidates," British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters on his way into the council.

He said the purpose of the secret ballots was to "encourage people who don't do so well to drop out of the race."

Ultimately, the five nations that hold a veto on the Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - have to agree on a candidate and there is no requirement for them to pay attention to the popularity of candidates with the General Assembly. The council hopes to agree on a candidate by October, diplomats say.

"It is really important that the Security Council move as expeditiously as possible to make this selection to allow the next Secretary-General as much time as possible to prepare for this ever-so-important job," said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power.

The female candidates so far are: UN cultural organization UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic; Moldova's former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman; former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Programme; Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra; and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.

Also in the race are Montenegro Foreign Minister Igor Luksic; former Slovenian President Danilo Turk; former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who is also a former Portuguese prime minister; former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic; former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim; and Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.

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