What's In Blue

Posted Wed 20 Jul 2016

Security Council to Conduct First Straw Poll

Tomorrow morning (21 July), Security Council members will take the first step in testing the viability of the twelve nominated candidates for the post of Secretary-General when they participate in the first straw poll in the selection. The straw poll will take place in the consultations room. Attendance will be the permanent representative plus one other delegate, with the exception of the president and the two members who provide tellers who will have two delegates. There will be no officials from the Secretariat present and no official record of the results is kept.

Last month, members discussed the modalities for the straw polls and decided that the first straw poll would be conducted on 21 July, with no difference between the ballot papers of the members and non-members. All the ballots tomorrow will therefore be identical, with three columns marked “encouraged”, “discouraged” and “no opinion expressed”. As there will be one ballot paper for each candidate, members will be casting a total of 180 ballots.

Council members are familiar with all the candidates, as they have participated in informal dialogues in the General Assembly and have also each met privately with Council members. The twelve nominees are:

  • Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Director-General of UNESCO and former Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • Helen Clark (New Zealand), Administrator of UNDP and former Prime Minister;
  • Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica), former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
  • Natalia Gherman (Moldova), former First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
    Foreign Affairs and European Integration;
  • António Guterres (Portugal), former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and
    former Prime Minister;
  • Vuk Jeremić (Serbia), former Foreign Minister and former President of the 67th
    session of the General Assembly;
  • Srgjan Kerim (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former President of the 62nd session of the General Assembly;
  • Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and former High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Igor Lukšić (Montenegro), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister;
  • Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, former Chef de Cabinet to the UN Secretary-General;
  • Vesna Pusič (Croatia), former First Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of
    Foreign and European Affairs; and
  • Danilo Türk (Slovenia), former President of Slovenia and former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
  • The president of the Council will count the ballots, recording the results in a tally sheet. During this process, the other members will be present and can keep track of the results on their own tally sheet. Ballots will be destroyed by the presidency once the straw poll is over.

    Members are aware of the importance of keeping the results of the straw polls confidential. There is agreement that the permanent representatives of the nominated candidates will be given their results, as well as an indication of highest and lowest scores received by any candidate without attribution. However, the issue of what to communicate to the president of the General Assembly has been more controversial. It was agreed last month that the president of the Council would simply inform the president of the General Assembly that the straw poll had taken place and provide information on the timing of any future straw poll, but that no results would be conveyed.

    Several elected members have suggested that the highest and lowest scores could be provided, but a number of P5 members have argued against this, citing confidentiality as their main reason. The president of the General Assembly has made it clear that he believes that he should be given more information, in the spirit of the transparency and inclusivity that has been a key part of the process so far.

    The date of the next straw poll will be decided at the end of tomorrow’s informal ballot. It seems that Russia’s position has been that there is no need to have another straw poll till September, but other members have strongly argued against this. These members believe that it is important to have a series of straw polls after this first one, including throughout the month of August, in spite of the absences of some permanent representatives.

    The results tomorrow will be the first indication to candidates of their prospects of becoming the next Secretary-General. It is unclear whether a low score will lead to candidates immediately dropping out, or whether they may choose to stay in for further rounds in the hope that their score will improve. If very few choose to drop out after several rounds, Council members may need to discuss ways of narrowing the field of candidates, including having a cut-off score below which candidates would not go forward to the next straw poll.

    Ahead of the next straw poll, Council members may need to meet to discuss any new developments, including withdrawal or entry of new candidates. In addition, there may be a need to consider further refinements to the process following the experience of the first straw poll.

    For more on the 2016 selection process and the history of straw polls, please see our 30 June 2016 report on Appointing the Secretary-General: The Challenge for the Security Council.

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