What's In Blue

Posted Wed 15 Oct 2014

Security Council Elections 2014

Tomorrow morning (16 October), the General Assembly will hold elections to fill five of the ten non-permanent seats in the Security Council (for the 2015-2016 term).

The five seats available for election this year are distributed regionally as follows:
• one seat for the African Group, currently held by Rwanda;
• one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group), currently held by the Republic of Korea;
• one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), currently held by Argentina; and
• two seats for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), currently held by Australia and Luxembourg.

Three candidates—Angola (African Group), Malaysia (Asia-Pacific Group) and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GRULAC)—are running on a “clean slate”, as no other candidates from their respective regional groups have declared their intention to run. It is possible, although unlikely, that a country running on a “clean slate” might not garner the requisite votes of those present in the General Assembly in the first round of voting. Such a country may then be challenged in subsequent rounds and ultimately not obtain a seat.

In contrast, the WEOG seats are being contested, with New Zealand, Spain and Turkey competing for two seats. The two WEOG seats, which come up every two years, were also contested in 2012 (Australia, Finland and Luxembourg), 2010 (Canada, Germany and Portugal) and 2008 (Austria, Iceland and Turkey).

A country must obtain votes from two-thirds of the member states present and voting at the General Assembly session in order to secure a seat on the Council, regardless of whether the election is contested. This means that 129 votes are required at a minimum to win a seat if all 193 UN member states vote. If no candidate obtains the required number of votes in the first round, voting in the next three rounds is restricted to the candidates that received the most votes. If, at that point, a candidate still fails to garner the minimum number of votes, unrestricted voting is reopened for up to three rounds. This pattern of restricted and unrestricted voting continues until a candidate is successful in securing the required two-thirds of the votes.

While members do not seem to be anticipating a prolonged period of voting to decide the two WEOG seats, several rounds might need to be held before a candidate garners the necessary support. Historically, there have been a number of instances in which extended rounds of voting were required to fill a contested seat after consecutive rounds that resulted in deadlock. While this was more common before the Council’s enlargement from 11 to 15 members in 1966, it has happened a few times in recent years, with the situation being resolved by the withdrawal of one of the contenders or the emergence and subsequent election of a compromise candidate. For example, in 2006, there were 47 rounds between Guatemala and Venezuela, with Panama finally coming in as the compromise candidate in the 48th round.

All 2014 candidates have previously served on the Council. Spain and Venezuela have the most prior Security Council experience, both having served four terms. Turkey has also served four times, but only a one-year term in 1961 as a result of a split term with Poland. Malaysia and New Zealand have both served three times, also with one-year terms in the mid-sixties. (These one year terms were the compromise solution after multiple non-conclusive rounds of voting.) Angola has served once. None of the 75 member states that have never served on the Council (accounting for approximately 39 percent of the wider membership) are candidates this year.

While Council elections have traditionally been held in mid-October, a decision has been made to move the election to earlier in the year in the future. According to a 10 September resolution of the General Assembly (A/RES/68/307), beginning at the seventieth session, elections of the non-permanent members of the Security Council will be held about six months before the elected members assume their responsibilities. It seems that some member states had argued for this change as it would allow countries more time to prepare for their time on the Council.

The five newly elected members will assume their Council seats on 1 January 2015 and will serve until 31 December 2016.

For more detailed information on this year’s candidates and the rules and process for Council elections, please see our Security Council Elections 2014 Report.

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