The race to become the next UN chief gathers pace on Friday with a second straw poll that could spring surprises and prompt some candidates to end their bid to become the world’s top diplomat.
Portugal’s former prime minister Antonio Guterres took the lead in the first informal vote last month to select the next secretary-general, followed closely by Danilo Turk, the former president of Slovenia.
Diplomats however warn there could still be an upset in the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon, with 11 candidates now in the fray.
“I think this is going to be a process that will take some time,” said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. “It’s not going to be resolved on Friday.”
During the closed-door meeting, the 15 members of the council will be asked to indicate by ballot whether they “encourage”, “discourage” or have “no opinion” of a candidate.
Guterres came out on top during the first round with 12 “encourage” votes and three “no opinion,” but some diplomats say it’s uncertain whether he can secure such a high score in the second round.
The results are not announced, but the council president communicates them to the candidates to give them an indication of the level of support in the council.
Some candidates privately said the results of the second straw poll will be key in their decision to stay in the race.
Former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic announced on Thursday that she was pulling out, after receiving the lowest score in the first round.
Pusic said in a letter announcing her withdrawal that it “became clear after the first round of voting of the UN Security Council that the selection has not gone in my direction.”
A pro-European politician who was outspoken about gender equality and LGBT rights, Pusic picked up 11 “discourage” votes, two “encourage” and two “no opinion.”
– UN chief from eastern Europe ? –
Security Council members are facing calls to pick the first woman after eight men in the job, and to give preference to a candidate from eastern Europe, the only region that has yet to be represented in the top post.
Churkin said it was a “priority” for Russia to support a candidate from eastern Europe, but acknowledged that there were “good candidates as well from other regions.”
Among the other candidates to watch are UNESCO chief Irina Bokova of Bulgaria who took the number three spot, and New Zealand’s ex-prime minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Program. She came in sixth.
Of the 11 candidates, seven are from eastern Europe.
The secret vote caps a new, more open process that for the first time in the UN’s history allowed candidates to appear at hearings to make their pitch for the top job before the General Assembly.
More rounds of voting are expected in the coming weeks before the council agrees on a nominee, which is expected to happen in October.
The new UN secretary-general will begin his or her five-year term on January 1.