Portugal’s Guterres front-runner in race for next UN chief

The lengthy process to select a new U.N. chief took another step forward Friday, as former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres reconfirmed his status as front-runner leading the pack of 10 candidates.

Diplomats with knowledge of the confidential Security Council vote told VOA that the 67-year-old Guterres secured 12 votes “encouraging” his candidacy, two “discouraging” it and one expressing “no opinion”.

Guterres has now dominated the informal vote known as a “straw poll” for four rounds.

The council will hold another secret ballot on September 26. A winner could be chosen in early October, when color-coded ballots will be introduced. Candidates who receive a veto from Britain, China, France, Russia or the United States could see their candidacy sunk.

Diplomats from many countries have expressed support for Guterres’, citing his charisma, his decade-long tenure as U.N. refugee agency chief, and as Portugal’s leader from 1995-2002.

Trailing Guterres for a second time, is Slovakia’s foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak with 10 encourages, 4 discourages and one no opinion. In third is Serbia’s former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and in fourth is Macedonia’s Srgjan Kerim.

There has been a push this year by Eastern European countries to see a candidate succeed from their region, as no Eastern European has ever been U.N. chief.

There has also been a movement to endorse a woman as the world’s top diplomat. But the female candidates have been performing poorly, and in this straw poll, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova came in fifth with the best showing for a female candidate.

Behind here were Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra in sixth and New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark in eighth. Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman filled out the bottom of the pack.

“The absolute minimum that a candidate needs is nine positive votes and no vetoes, so any candidate that is some way off that minimum is not going to win this race,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said ahead of the vote, encouraging those who do not finish well to drop out.

In 2006, Ban Ki-moon was selected U.N. chief from a field of seven candidates in a final vote after four straw polls.

The winner will take over from Ban on January 1, 2017.

Source: VOANews.com

(Photo of Guterres: UN Photo/Jean-Marc FerrŽe)