Antonio Guterres, formerly Portugal’s prime minister and a former head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, scored a hat trick on August 29 as he gained the most positive votes in a third straw poll among the 15 UN Security Council members on who should be the next UN Secretary-General.
Guterres, who also won the first vote on July 21 with the support of 12 votes and on August 5 with 11 votes, got 11 “encourage” votes, three “discourage” and one “no opinion” in the August 29 straw poll.
In second place was Slovakia’s Miroslav Lacjak, with nine “encourage”, five “discourage” and one “no opinion”.
This is another change in the second-place slot in the informal poll. In the July 21 vote, Slovenia’s former president Danilo Turk came second. In the August 5 vote, Serbia’s Vuk Jeremic came in second.
In joint third place was the Bulgarian candidate, Irina Bokova, and Serbia’s Jeremic. Each got seven “encourage”, five “discourage” and one “no opinion” vote.
In the first straw poll, Bokova was jointly in third place with two other candidates. In the second, she dropped to fifth.
The August 29 vote saw Argentina’s Susanna Malcorra, reportedly the candidate favoured by the United States, in fourth place, with seven “encourage” votes, seven “discourage” and one “no opinion”.
The vote saw Macedonia’s Srdjan Kerim get six “encourage”, seven “discourage” and two “no opinion”, while New Zealand’s Helen Clark got six “encourage”, eight “discourage” and one “no opinion”.
Turk got five “encourage”, six “discourage” and four “no opinion” votes.
There are currently 10 candidates in the race, but at least some are likely to drop out after the third straw poll, expected to be followed by two further ones, in which UN Security Council permanent members will have a key role in the process to choose a successor to take over as UN Secretary-General from Ban Ki-moon at the start of 2017.
There had been a field of 12, but Croatia’s Vesna Pusic and Montenegro’s Igor Luksic dropped out as the straw poll process showed them as having little support.
The concept of the three straw polls has been seen as designed to discourage candidates unlikely to win wide support or having any possibility of emerging as a compromise candidate.
Much will ride on the dynamics among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and in particular, between the US and Russia.
Moscow has been seen earlier in the race as backing Bokova, the scion of a Bulgarian communist family, a former diplomat and more lately a two-term head of Unesco, and also was seen as favouring Jeremic.
The Guterres victory on August 29 runs counter to the talk around the race that the next UN Secretary-General should be a woman, given that the world body never has been headed by a woman, and that the new UN chief should come from Eastern Europe, a group that has not yet had one of its number head the UN.
(Photo of Guterres: UN Photo/ Jean-Marc Ferre)