What's In Blue

Posted Wed 16 Oct 2013

Security Council Elections 2013

Tomorrow (17 October), the General Assembly will hold elections for the Security Council to fill five of the ten non-permanent seats in the Council for the 2014-2015 term.

The five seats available for election this year will be distributed regionally as follows:

  • two seats for the African Group (currently held by Morocco and Togo);
  • one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (the Asia-Pacific Group, currently held by Pakistan);

  • one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC, currently held by Guatemala); and

  • one seat for the Eastern European Group (currently held by Azerbaijan)


The five candidates are headed for a “clean slate” election as there are the same number of candidates as there are seats available for each regional group: Chad and Nigeria for the African Group seats; Saudi Arabia for the Asia-Pacific Group seat; Chile for the GRULAC seat; and Lithuania for the Eastern European Group seat. Gambia, which had indicated it would contest the West African seat with Nigeria, withdrew from the campaign in early October.

Given this scenario, the five candidates will be elected to the Council for the 2014-2015 term as long as they get two-thirds of the votes of the members of the General Assembly present and voting. In theory, it is possible that a country running on a “clean slate” may not garner the requisite votes in the first round of voting. Such a country may then be challenged in subsequent rounds and ultimately not obtain a seat. However, this is highly unlikely.

There has never been an election in which all five available seats were contested. There has always been one or more “clean slate” seat. However, pure “clean slate” elections, where all five available seats are uncontested, have not been the norm in recent times. Prior to this year, there have only been five pure “clean slate” elections in the last twenty years (1994, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2009).

There are differing perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of “clean slate” elections. On the plus side, enthusiastic candidates should have ample time to prepare for their Council tenure earlier than if they were expending time and energy campaigning in a race whose results they cannot predict. Additionally, some regional groups prefer “clean slate” candidates because of a desire to avoid creating regional divisiveness. On the other hand, some have argued that eliminating competition through rotation or other similar practices suggests that there is no real scrutiny of the candidates and that non-competitive elections may at times result in less invigorated Council members.

The President of the Security Council rotates alphabetically every month. This means that Lithuania will hold the presidency immediately upon entering the Council on 1 January 2014. The first—and in some cases, only—monthly presidencies of the other incoming members are in March 2014 (Nigeria), July 2014 (Saudi Arabia), December 2014 (Chad) and, depending on the results of the 2014 Security Council elections, January or February 2015 (Chile).

For a more comprehensive analysis of the elections, procedures and candidates, please see our Special Research Report on the 2013 Security Council Elections.

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