Former Portuguese Prime Minister Clings to Lead in Race For U.N. Secretary General

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Clings to Lead in Race For U.N. Secretary General

Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese Prime Minister, preserved his lead in the race to become the next U.N. secretary general when Ban Ki-moon steps down at the end of the year. But his candidacy encountered its first real sign of danger.

Guterres gained 11 votes of encouragement in Friday’s second straw poll in the 15-nation U.N Security Council, finishing well ahead of the pack of 10 other aspirants to the top U.N. job. That’s three more than the two closest runner-ups, former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who each got eight. One-time dark horse Danilo Turk slipped from second place to fourth, with seven countries encouraging his candidacy and five discouraging it. Three had no opinion.

But two Security Council members cast a “discouraging” vote against Guterres. If either one of those states is a veto wielding-power like, say, Russia, which has made clear its preference for an Eastern European candidate, it could prove fatal to Guterres’ candidacy.

The inconclusive outcome sets the stage for a new round of polling in the Security Council, according to members. The immediate aim now, said one council member, is to flush out candidates who have no chance of winning and to determine whether either of the two votes against Guterres are intended to slow down his candidacy, and perhaps lure other candidates to enter the race, or to end it. The latest round of voting doesn’t make it clear which countries blackballed Guterres: one of the five permanent members, or one of the rotating members of the U.N.’s inner sanctum.

The election for Secretary General has been conducted in secret. Council members are shown a ballot with each candidate’s name and ask to check a box next to one of three boxes indicating whether they encourage, discourage or have no opinion. The ballots are folded in three and then counted by officials from three countries on the Security Council, Malaysia, Egypt and Senegal. The results are shared only with the top U.N.-based ambassadors from each candidate’s country. Council diplomats pledge not to discuss the results with the press.

“You’ll get nothing from me,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, told reporters after the vote. “My lips are sealed,” added Uruguay’s U.N. envoy Elbio Rosselli.

Nevertheless, poll results quickly leaked. Here’s how they performed, with votes for encourage, discourage and no opinion.

*Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres: 11-2-2

*Former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic: 8-4-3

*Argentine Foreign Minister Susan Malcorra:  8-6-1

*Former Slovenian President Danilo Turk: 7-5-3

*UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria: 7-7-1

*Former Foreign Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Kerim Srgjam: 6-7-2

*Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark: 6-8-1

*Former U.N. Climate Change chief Christiana Figueres: 5-8-2

*Former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman: 3-10-2

*Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak: 2-6-7

*Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Igor Luksic: 2-9-4

Photo Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images