By Viktor Lerche-Jørgensen Lassen
After the third straw poll in the Security Council, former Prime Minister of Portugal António Guterres once again emerged as frontrunner for the position as UN Secretary-General. While the race remains open, female candidates lag behind in the polls despite growing public support for a woman Secretary General.
On Monday, the United Nations Security Council held its third informal straw poll, where the fifteen member states of the Council voted on the ten remaining candidates to replace current Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. In a secret ballot, the member states voted ‘encourage’, ‘discourage’ or ‘no opinion towards each candidate.
For the third time António Guterres emerged as frontrunner, this time with 11 encouragements, 3 disencouragements and 1 ‘no opinion’-vote. Guterres was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and UN High Commisioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. Behind him, Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajčák surprisingly took second place, going from two encouragements at the last straw poll held on august 5th, to nine this time, with five discouragements and one ‘no opinion’.
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Secrecy and uncertaincy
None of the candidates should quit their day job yet though. In the Security Council, where the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) hold the right to veto any candidate, one single discouragement from a permanent member is enough to keep that candidate out of office. All the candidates received at least three discouragements, but whether they came from any of the permanent members is unknown.
The straw poll was held in secret, but as has become custom, the results were leaked to the press within minutes. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly addressed the redundant secrecy, when he shortly after the straw poll released a statement, in which he stressed “that the absence of any further details beyond the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place adds little value and does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency.”
Support for a female Secretary General
The straw poll proved to be another disappointment to those hoping for a woman to win the position. The highest polling woman was Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, who replaced Susana Malcorra in third place with seven encouragements, five discouragements and three ‘no opinion’.
Recently, Ban Ki-Moon expressed his support for the idea of a woman to replace him , when he argued that “it’s high time now” for a female Secretary General. After being asked about about a potential female replacement, the current Secretary General voiced his own “humble suggestion” to the Security Council. “We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organizations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life,” Ban told the Associated Press. “There’s no reason why not in the United Nations.”
Though it has not been officially announced yet, more straw polls are expected to take place in september, and may continue until 2017, when Ban Ki-Moon’s term ends.