UN diplomats: Portugal's Guterres tops poll for UN chief

AP News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2016 2:41 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Portugal's former prime minister Antonio Guterres topped the second informal poll to succeed Ban Ki-moon as the next U.N. secretary-general, but unlike the first round he got two "discourage" votes, leaving the contest in play, U.N. diplomats said Friday.

Serbia's former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic moved up from third to second place followed by Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra who jumped from eighth place to third place, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because voting was secret.

The 15 Security Council members decided not to reveal the results of their voting to "encourage," ''discourage," or express "no opinion" about the 11 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.

But the results of Friday's vote quickly leaked, just as the results of the first informal poll on July 21.

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions and Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the world's top diplomatic 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 U.N. chief.

Malcorra became the highest-ranked woman in the race, replacing Irina Bokova of Bulgaria who heads UNESCO. She dropped from third to fifth place.

Slovenia's former president Danilo Turk, who came in second in the first round, dropped to fourth place.

According to the U.N. Charter, the secretary-general is chosen by the 193-member General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In practice, this has meant that the council's five permanent members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have veto power over the candidates.

In the first round of voting, Guterres, who was Portugal's center-left Socialist prime minister from 1995-2002 and served as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees until the end of last year, received 12 "encourage" votes and three "no opinion" votes. In Friday's voting, he got 11 "encourage" votes, two "discourage" and two "no opinion."

Before the vote, several council diplomats said that if Guterres had no "discourage" votes in the second round he would almost certainly be recommended by the council. But not knowing whether his "discourage" votes come from one of the five veto-wielding council members leaves the race open, and additional "straw" polls are expected.

Jeremic, a former General Assembly president who was second, got eight "encourage" votes, four "discourage" votes and three "no opinion," the diplomats said.

Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez told reporters after the vote that he expects several candidates to drop out of the race. Former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic became the first of the 12 candidates to leave the race on Thursday.

Former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim came in sixth followed by New Zealand's former prime minister Helen Clark who heads the U.N. Development Program, the diplomats said.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, the U.N. official who played a key role in shaping last December's historic agreement to fight climate change, was in eighth place followed by former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman, Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Igor Luksic, they said.