What's In Blue

Posted Wed 17 Oct 2012

Security Council Elections 2012

Tomorrow morning (18 October), the General-Assembly is scheduled to hold elections, by secret ballot, for five non-permanent Council seats for the 2013-2014 term.These include one seat for the African Group, currently held by South Africa; one seat for the Asia-Pacific Group, currently held by India; one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), currently held by Colombia; and two seats for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), currently held by Germany and Portugal.

Two candidates-Argentina (GRULAC) and Rwanda (African Group)-are running on a “clean slate”, as no other candidates from their respective regional groups have declared their intention to run. (This does not however preclude the possibility of a candidate coming in after a third inconclusive ballot, the most recent example being Panama jumping in after an inconclusive 47 rounds between Guatemala and Venezuela in 2006. A declared candidate may also drop out just before the voting as Eritrea did when it was running against Tanzania for the one African seat in 2004.)

In contrast, the Asia-Pacific Group and WEOG seats are being contested. Three Asia-Pacific candidates-Bhutan, Cambodia and the Republic of Korea-are competing for one seat, while three WEOG countries-Australia, Finland and Luxembourg-are competing for two seats. (The two WEOG seats were also contested in 2008 (Austria, Turkey and Iceland) and 2010 (Canada, Germany and Portugal). In recent years the Asia-Pacific seat was contested in 2006 (Indonesia and Nepal) and in 2008 (Japan and Iran).)

To secure a seat on the Council, a country must secure votes from two-thirds of the member states present and voting in the General-Assembly session, regardless of whether or not it is running on a “clean slate.” This means that a minimum of 129 votes are required to win a seat if all 193 UN member states participate.

If no candidate acquires the requisite number of votes in the first round, voting in the next round is restricted to the candidates that received the most votes. In this restricted ballot, the number of countries included is twice the number of vacant seats for the respective region. For the Asia-Pacific Group, for example, where there are three candidates and one seat, only the two countries that received the most votes in the first round would contest the next round of restricted balloting (any votes for other candidates are considered void). However, in the case of WEOG, since there are two seats and three candidates this rule would not apply.

This restricted voting process can go up to three rounds of voting. If, at this point, a candidate still fails to garner a two-thirds majority, unrestricted voting is reopened for up to three rounds. It is at this point that new candidates can come into the process. A candidate excluded after the first unrestricted ballot can also put in its name again. This pattern of restricted and unrestricted voting continues until a candidate is successful in securing the required majority. This process can go on for months: the GRULAC seat in 1979, contested by Colombia and Cuba, went to 154 rounds over two and a half months, before Mexico was elected in the 155th round as a compromise candidate.

The voting process has meant that the length of the elections has varied greatly and can be unpredictable. At times, the five incoming members of the Security Council are elected in the opening round. At others, there are multiple rounds of voting spanning several sessions before the five new members are selected. Since 2001, half of the Council elections have been decided in one round with the other half having multiple rounds.

The five newly elected members will assume their Council seats on 1 January 2013 and will serve until 31 December 2014.

For more detailed information on this year’s candidates and the rules and process for Council elections, please see our Security Council Elections 2012 Report.

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