Guterres tops UN chief straw poll, Clark stays in

By Amy Lieberman 27 September 2016

António Guterres, former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program. Photos by: World Economic Forum and PCM PERÚ Perú / CC BY-NC-SA

Former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres appears one step closer to becoming the next United Nations Secretary-General, following the results of the fifth closed-door “straw poll” conducted by the Security Council Monday.

Guterres, also known for his role as the former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, received the most “encourage” votes out of the nine remaining candidates. Guterres has now led each of the five straw polls, but even with broad support he and the other candidates will have to survive the veto power held by the Security Council’s five permanent members — Russia, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France.

Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia’s minister of foreign affairs, has consistently placed close behind Guterres, along with Serbian diplomat Vuk Jeremic, who received one less “discourage” vote than Lajcak in this latest straw poll.

The World Federation of United Nations Association, a global nonprofit with offices at the United Nations, released the first results of the Monday morning straw poll on Twitter — a nod to the transparency and reform movement civil society organizations have spearheaded this election season.

In this cycle, for the first time, candidates had to submit applications and answer questions for the secretary-general job, but the process is still largely conducted behind closed doors. After the Security Council conducts its final secret vote Oct. 5, one candidate will be nominated. The General Assembly will then confirm the candidate by a majority vote before current U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon steps down from his position at the end of 2016.

“Massive change doesn’t come overnight, but what we have been able to achieve has been significant, in each of the candidates engaging in the process, conducting job interviews with the member states, and engaging with civil society and bringing the race closer to them,” said Jordan Street, who is leading the secretary-general election campaign at World Federation of United Nations Association. “We’ve made it as transparent as we could in the current climate and will now build on this.”

The global campaign 1 for 7 billion, with 800 member organizations, is calling for 10 specific reforms to the election process. These include candidates not making “backroom deals” to Security Council’s permanent members for support and limiting the secretary-general’s tenure to a single seven-year term. Ban has served back-to-back five-year terms.

Bill Pace, a director for the 1 for 7 billion campaign, says the election remains “inscrutable.” The organization also released another leaked version of the straw poll results Monday afternoon. The Security Council does not officially release the outcome of the votes.

Guterres, with 12 “encourage” votes, received only two “discourage” votes, along with one neutral, according to the straw poll reported by 1 for 7 billion and World Federation of United Nations Association. Reuters independently reported the same straw poll results.

The three candidates who came in at the bottom of the poll were Helen Clark, the administrator of the United Nations Development Program and former prime minister of New Zealand; Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat; and Natalia Gherman, a Moldovan politician.

Clark maintained that she would stay in the race, writing on Twitter, “Continuing campaign &looking 4ward 2 next phase,” Monday afternoon.

While 1 for 7 billion and World Federation of the United Nations have not officially endorsed one candidate, Pace spoke highly of Guterres’ “great expertise and familiarity as an international organization leader, compared to those who do not have a lot of experience or qualifications operating with intergovernmental organizations.”

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About the author

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Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.


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