October 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2009
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Security Council Elections 2009

Expected Action
In October (possibly the fifteenth) the General Assembly will hold elections for five Security Council seats which have two-year terms. The new members will take their seats on 1 January and will serve in 2010 and 2011. In accordance with usual practice the Council is expected to invite the incoming members to observe its work, including its informal consultations, for a period four weeks at the end of 2009.

Security Council Report has published a Special Research Report on the 2009 Security Council Elections which provides detailed analysis of Security Council elections, including details about the five candidates and an in-depth explanation of the electoral process and the established practices of the regional groups.

The candidates for election in 2009 are:

  • Nigeria and Gabon (for the two African seats);
  • Lebanon (for the one Asian seat);
  • Brazil (for the one Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) seat); and
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (for the one Eastern European seat).

At press time it appears that all five seats will be uncontested.

Africa Seats: Nigeria and Gabon have been endorsed by the AU for the two available African seats. Nigeria has had three terms on the Council: 1966-1967, 1978-1979 and 1994-1995. Gabon has had two: 1978-1979 and 1998 -1999.

Asian Seat: Lebanon won regional endorsement in 2008 from the Asian group in 2008. The last time that Lebanon, a founding member of the UN, served on the Council was 1953-1954.

Eastern European Seat: Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only candidate for the Eastern European seat. Poland, which had also been a candidate, withdrew in October 2008. Bosnia and Herzegovina has never been on the Council (although it was part of Yugoslavia when that country had four Council terms).

GRULAC Seat: Brazil, the only candidate for the GRULAC seat, was endorsed by the group in February 2009. Brazil is one of the UN’s founding members and was part of the first group of elected Council members in 1946. Since then it has been on the Council nine times, most recently in 2004-2005.

Having won endorsement by their regional groups, all five candidates are in practice assured of election by the General Assembly. This is the first time since 2004 where the number of candidates equals the number of available seats. However, because these are elections to a principal UN organ, formal balloting is required even though the five candidates will most likely not be facing any competition. (General Assembly decision 34/401, paragraph 16, allows the Assembly to dispense with elections where there is a “clean slate” from a regional group, but this applies only to subsidiary organs and therefore does not apply to Council elections.)

All five candidates will need to secure two-thirds of the votes of those present and voting.

If no new candidates emerge at the last minute the ten non-permanent Council members in the 2010-2011 Council will be: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey and Uganda.

The table below illustrates the number of seats available to the different regions in the election, the declared candidates and their previous terms on the Council.


Available Seats in the 2009 Election

States Running

Years Served on the Council








Three terms comprising six years (1966-1967, 1978-1979, 1994 -1995)


Two terms comprising four years (1978-1979, 1998-1999)




One term comprising two years (1953-1954)

Eastern Europe


Bosnia and Herzegovina

has never served

Latin America & Caribbean



Nine terms comprising 18 years (1946-1947, 1951-1952, 1954-1955, 1963-1964, 1967-1968, 1988-1989, 1993-1994, 1998-1999, 2004-2005)

Obligatory Abstention Issue
A procedural issue that may arise during 2010-2011 flows from the fact that two new members of the Council—Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina—are actually themselves on the Council’s agenda. The possible conflict of interest that could arise from such a situation was foreseen in the UN Charter. Article 27 (3) provides:

Decisions of the Security Council … shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to the dispute shall abstain from voting.

In the early days of the UN there were a number of examples of the use of article 27(3). In 1947 the UK abstained from voting on the Corfu Channel Question and in 1950-1951 India abstained on three resolutions on the India-Pakistan question. Both expressly referred to article 27(3).

Council decisions on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon or issues relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina may lead to questions about whether article 27(3) is applicable.

Our 2009 Special Research Report will provide more background on the question.

Peace and Security Concerns
Council members will also be conscious of the fact that for some of the new members joining the Council in 2010 recent signs of political fragility could portend complications.

  • Over the last year there has been an increase in divisive rhetoric challenging the sovereignty and constitutional order in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Leading political parties are also finding it increasingly difficult to agree on a basic political structure for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Gabon’s recent 30 August election results were disputed by the opposition which called for a poll recount.
  • At the time of writing Lebanon was still trying to form a government following elections on 7 June.

Full forecast

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