Thomas P. Kilgannon

After the straw vote in the UN Security Council on Thursday, it looks as though South Korea’s Ban-Ki Moon may be on his way to the 38th floor of the UN building in New York to preside over the international body of anti-American misfits. Ban, who has now won three straw polls, is rumored to have the support of the United States, which would explain John Bolton’s desire to see the selection process come to a quick finish.

But Ban shouldn’t fumigate Kofi’s office just yet. The South Korean foreign minister has received one “discourage” vote in each of the straw polls, a fact that could doom his candidacy if that no confidence ballot belongs to one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. UN watchers are wondering if Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin is trying to flex his muscle in the Security Council. After the latest vote, Churkin commented that Russia “in principle” favors an Asian to take the top UN post, but quickly added that “we have a number of strong Asian candidates.”

And while Ban’s overall support remains strong, he did slip a notch in the cumbersome voting process from 14 “encourage” votes during the last contest to 13 “encourage” votes on the most recent ballot. That was still far ahead of the second place candidate – UN communications chief Shashi Tharoor – who received only eight “encourage” votes and whose support has dropped significantly enough to consign his campaign to a footnote in Indian history books. One candidate to watch is Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga who finished a respectable third place having only entered the race in the last two weeks.

One more straw vote is slated for Monday in the Security Council, and in that process the five permanent members will use special ballots to determine if the “discourage” vote for Ban amounts to a veto.

For all the talk of UN reform, the selection of the next secretary general has largely been carried out in secret. Private meetings and brokered deals dominate the process. Unlike presidential candidates in the United States who begin their campaigns years ahead of time, the candidates for the top UN post are known to only a handful of people.

Ban Ki-Moon, the leading candidate, has remained silent. He has given very few interviews and declined to answer candidate questionnaires from non-governmental organizations and media outlets. But the South Korean government is working hard to get Ban elected and has dramatically increased its foreign assistance in order to promote his candidacy. James Bone of The Times of London reports that South Korea’s aid to Africa has tripled since Ban announced his candidacy in February, including an $18 million pledge of assistance to Tanzania which holds a seat on the Security Council.

Thomas P. Kilgannon

Thomas P. Kilgannon is the president of Freedom Freedom Alliance and the author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations.

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