Portugal’s Guterres leads first-round vote for UN chief
UNITED NATIONS – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoAntonio Guterres, Portugal’s ex-prime minister who was U.N. refugee chief for 10 years, led the closely watched first straw poll vote July 21 to pick the next U.N. secretary-general, diplomats said.
Slovenia’s former president Danilo Turk came second in the secret vote by the U.N. Security Council to choose a successor to Ban Ki-moon.
The 15 ambassadors including those from the powerful five - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - each rated the candidates with ballots marked “encourage,” “discourage” or “no opinion.”
Guterres won the top score of 12 “encourage” votes with three “no opinion.” Turk was close behind with 11 encouragements, two “discourage” votes and three “no opinion,” according to diplomats.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santo Silva described the result as “extremely positive” and said it confirmed that Guterres is “particularly qualified for the position of secretary-general.”
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova of Bulgaria received nine encouragements as did Serbia’s ex-foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and Srgjan Kerim, Macedonia’s former foreign minister.
New Zealand’s Helen Clark, a former prime minister who heads the UN Development Programme, picked up eight encouragements but in a potential blow to her campaign, received five “discourage” votes.
There are currently 12 candidates in the race, six of them women, but diplomats expect some to withdraw based on the result of the first round.
Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who served as Ban’s chief of staff, failed to make a strong showing, receiving fewer encouragements than Clark as did Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.
Croatia’s former foreign minister Vesna Pusic received 11 discouragements from the council, the lowest score.
Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, Montenegro’s Igor Luksic and former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica were among the bottom tier.
Council members are expected to meet again, possibly as early as next week, for a second round of straw polls, with a final nominee expected to emerge by October.
The secret vote followed a new, more open process that for the first time in U.N. history provided for hearings to allow candidates to present their pitch for the top job before the General Assembly.
Fluent in Portuguese, English, Spanish and French, the 67-year-old Guterres impressed U.N. diplomats when he appeared at the hearings and he has earned praise for his handling of Europe’s refugee crisis as high commissioner.