The UN Security Council held its fourth round of straw polls on 9 September to determine which candidate it will put forward to replace Ban Ki-moon as the next Secretary-General.
This latest round saw the former Prime Minister of Portugal and former head of the UN Refugee Agency, Antόnio Guterres, maintain his lead for the fourth time running. The three candidates heading the list – Guterres, followed by Miroslav Lajčák from Slovakia and by Serbia’s Vuk Jeremić - slightly improved their position, with Guterres and Lajčák getting one more “encourage” vote, and Jeremić receiving two more. All three candidates had one less country “discouraging” him. While the Security Council has maintained its policy of not releasing the results, they have been publicised on Twitter after every poll.
The fourth round saw Srgjan Kerim (FYROM) rise from sixth to fourth place, with eight “encourage” votes, followed by Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova with seven, and Danilo Türk from Slovenia in the sixth place also with seven “encourage” votes. Susana Malcorra (Argentina) dropped to seventh place followed by Helen Clark (New Zealand) dropping to eighth position. Christiana Figueres, who ranked in ninth position, withdrew her candidacy shortly after the fourth poll "in order to expedite the process". Natalia Gherman received the lowest score with three "encourages".
The Council’s decision to recommend a candidate as Secretary-General to the General Assembly is considered a matter of substance requiring an affirmative vote of nine members, with its permanent five members concurring, i.e. not exercising their power to veto. In the latest round, only two candidates: Guterres and Lajčák, had nine states or more “encouraging” them, sufficient for the necessary number of affirmative votes. All candidates received “discourage” votes, with Guterres receiving the lowest number, three. It is not known whether any of the ‘discouraging’ votes are from veto-carrying members. Things will become clearer in October, when the Council intends to hold its first colour-coded straw poll, which distinguishes between veto-carrying and non-veto-carrying members. However, a straw poll is not an official Council vote and the use of the “veto” in coloured straw polls has not prevented a candidate from becoming Secretary-General in the past.
The third poll
The third poll, conducted on 29 August, had seen Lajčák rise from tenth to second place. Jeremić and Bokova came joint third, with seven “encourage” votes. Malcorra came in fifth place, losing one ‘encourage’ vote, followed by Srgjan Kerim (FYROM), whose votes remained the same. Danilo Türk from Slovenia dropped four places since the previous straw poll, with six “discourages”. Helen Clark (New Zealand) remained in seventh place, and Christiana Figueres from Costa Rica and Natalia Gherman from Moldova were joint ninth.
Two more straw polls are planned for 26 September and the first week of October, overseen by Russia. New Zealand would normally have done that as Council President for that month, but as it has a candidate running, it asked Russia to step in to avoid any perception of conflict of interest. Russia is also expected to organise the first colour-coded straw poll, which will show whether or not there is agreement among the veto carrying members, before all Council members proceed to vote in a resolution recommending one (or more) candidate(s) to the General Assembly. The Assembly will then appoint the next Secretary-General in a resolution, the contents of which the Assembly started to discuss in a debate of 29 September, including the option of a longer, single term.
After the withdrawal of two candidates, those who did less well are likely to be under pressure to follow suit. Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, is one of those encouraging low-scoring candidates to drop out, telling reporters "the whole point of the straw polls is to gradually winnow down the field".