Can This Woman Shake up the Secretary-General Race?

As António Guterres stays ahead in the Security Council straw polls, EU Commisioner Kristalena Georgieva is rumoured to enter the race to be the next leader of the UN. Though a strong candidate with powerful support, Georgieva might be too late in the game.


Kristalina Georgieva


By Viktor Lerche-Jørgensen Lassen


After the UN Security Council’s fourth straw poll on September 9th, it seemed clear that António Guterres would become the UN’s next Secretary-General. For the fourth time in a row, the former prime minister of Potugal emerged from the poll ahead of the other candidates, with 12 ‘encourage’ votes, two ‘discourage’ and one neutral from the 15-member Security Council.


Read also: Guterres Still Ahead in Secretary-General Straw Polls


But now a new candidate might join the five men and four women who are still officially in the race. Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, who is currently working as European Comissioner for Budget and Human Recouces, is being considered as a possible candidate by the Bulgarian government.


According to, Georgieva already has the support of several EU countries, and allegedly even German chancellor Angela Merkel was lobbying for her at last week’s G20 summit.


Apart from experience at the EU, Georgieva possesses two qualities which many have demanded in the next Secretary-General; being from eastern Europe and being a woman. During the history of the UN, all of the eight serving Secretaries-General have been men, and none of them have been from Eastern Europe.


Especially the former has generated calls for change, with even current Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon saying it is “high time” for a female head of the UN. Georgieva’s experience from working with development financing at the World Bank could also be a big asset for the UN in the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.


Read also: Your Guide to the 2016 UN Secretary-General Selection


But standing in the way of Georgievas nomination for Secretary-General is another Bulgarian woman. The Bulgarian government is currently backing Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, for the title and would have to pull back their endorsement of her to make room for Georgieva.


Bokovas performance in the straw polls has been mediocre, but on Tuesday the Bulgarian prime minister indicated that he would continue backing her, at least until the fifth straw poll which is to be held on September 26.


In the end, everything will come down to the five permanent members of the Security Council who can each veto any candidate. Though Guterres still has the best odds at the bookmakers, a lot can still happen in the wings.


When hundreds of heads of state arrive to the UN headquarters in New York next week for the 71st UN General Assembly, the selection of the next Secretary-General will be high on the agenda – also behind the scenes.


Stay tuned for more coverage of the Secretary-General race and other UN news.

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