Irina Bokova remains Bulgaria’s candidate to be the next United Nations Secretary-General, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on September 13 at the start of a Cabinet meeting, contradicting reports in previous days that Bulgaria would dump Bokova in favour of its European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
The reports emerged on September 10, and on September 12, though not confirming that the matter would be discussed by the Cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova described Bokova’s presentation in the UN race as “unconvincing”.
There have been four “straw polls” among the 15 UN Security Council members on the various candidates to head the world body. Bokova’s best performance was joint third. In the most recent poll, she placed fifth, with just seven “encourage” votes. Theoretically, for a candidacy to be viable, the nominee should attract nine “encourage” votes.
The next straw poll is on September 26. In all four votes so far, Portugal’s former prime minister and the former head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has come out on top.
Borissov said that every effort would be made to support Bokova’s candidacy, but added that if on September 26, the date of the next UN Security Council vote, she was not among the top candidates, the government would discuss how to proceed.
The reports that Georgieva, a widely-respected figure now in her second term at the European Commission and whose previous experience includes senior posts at the World Bank, would become a candidate in the UN race annoyed the Bokova camp.
They also caused diplomatic tensions between Russia, initially seen as a backer of Bokova, and Germany, and led to the Russian foreign minister summoning Bulgaria’s ambassdor in Moscow.
The Russian foreign ministry early claimed that German chancellor Angela Merkel had used the G20 meeting in Hangzhou to try to lobby Russian leaders to back a Georgieva candidacy. Moscow’s claim was vehemently denied by the German foreign ministry.
It is this diplomatic spat that is seen as a significant reason for the apparent plans for Sofia to switch its candidacy to Georgieva to be scrapped.
Still to be seen is whether, as some reports suggested on September 10, that a group of Central European countries, including Hungary, will collectively put forward Georgieva as their candidate. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban is visiting Bulgaria on September 13 and 14 at Borissov’s invitation.