What's In Blue

Posted Fri 23 Sep 2016

Fifth Straw Poll to Select the Secretary-General

On Monday (26 September), Council members will hold the fifth straw poll in the process to select the next Secretary-General. Like the first four straw polls held on 21 July, 5 August, 29 August and 9 September, this ballot will be undifferentiated as between the elected and permanent members. This is expected to be the last undifferentiated straw poll. A colour-coded straw poll is anticipated in the first week of October. Russia, as the next president, will again run Monday’s straw poll, in line with New Zealand’s request earlier this month for it to do so during New Zealand’s presidency of the Council, since the latter has a candidate competing for the position.

There has been media speculation since the last straw poll that European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria) might be nominated, but at press time there had been no new nomination. Although the Bulgarian government nominated Irina Bokova as their candidate in February, it was reported earlier this month that it would switch its support to Georgieva. However, the Bulgarian prime minister was subsequently quoted in the media as saying that the government would consider how to proceed only in the light of the outcome of the 26 September straw poll.

There is no explicit obstacle to a government nominating two candidates. The 15 December 2015 joint letter from the president of the Council and president of the General Assembly simply invited member states to present candidates for the position of Secretary-General; it said that early presentation of candidates would help the Council’s deliberations, but it did not preclude other candidates coming in “throughout the process as appropriate”. There has also been speculation that Georgieva might be nominated by a country or countries other than Bulgaria, but she appears to have ruled out being nominated by any country other than her own.

In the past, there has been a straw poll with two candidates from one country. In 1991, Thorvald Stoltenberg and Gro Harlem Brundtland, both from Norway, became candidates when additional names were allowed to be added on a blank piece of paper during the first proper straw poll in the selection process where Boutros Boutros Ghali was the eventual recommended candidate. While the nominations were secret, it appears that the two candidates were nominated by different Council members.

At press time no new candidates had emerged and nine candidates were expected to be on the ballot papers following the withdrawal of Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica) on 12 September. The candidates are: Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Natalia Gherman (Moldova), António Guterres (Portugal), Vuk Jeremić (Serbia), Srgjan Kerim (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), and Danilo Türk (Slovenia).

Chart 1:  Votes for the Four Straw Polls

(Votes are in the order of “Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion”)

Candidate First Straw Poll Second Straw Poll Third Straw Poll Fourth Straw Poll
António Guterres 12-0-3* 11-2-2 11-3-1 12-2-1
Danilo Türk 11-2-2 7-5-3 5-6-4 7-6-2
Irina Bokova 9-4-2 7-7-1 7-5-3 7-5-3
Vuk Jeremić 9-5-1 8-4-3 7-5-3 9-4-2
Srgjan Kerim 9-5-1 6-7-2 6-7-2 8-7-0
Helen Clark 8-5-2 6-8-1 6-8-1 6-7-2
Miroslav Lajčák 7-3-5 2-6-7 9-5-1 10-4-1
Susana Malcorra 7-4-4 8-6-1 7-7-1 7-7-1
Christiana Figueres 5-5-5 5-8-2 2-12-1 5-10-0
Natalia Gherman 4-4-7 3-10-2 2-12-1 3-11-1
Igor Lukšić 3-7-5 2-9-4    
Vesna Pusić 2-11-2      


Change of Votes


In the fourth straw poll, the number of “encourage” votes went up by seven percent, while the “discourage” votes went down by 17 percent and the “no opinion expressed” votes decreased by 44 percent. With only ten “no opinion expressed” votes cast in this round, it seems that members have a more definite position on the candidates. Guterres and Lajcak retained the number one and two spots, with both increasing their number of encourage votes by one and decreasing their number of discourage votes by one. Guterres has been the consistent front runner in all four undifferentiated straw polls, while the second spot and at least three of the top five spots have been taken by Eastern Europeans. The leading woman candidate has been Bokova in three of the four straw polls, and Malcorra in the second straw poll; in the fourth straw poll, they were in fifth and seventh places, respectively.

In the last straw poll, only three candidates – Guterres, Lajcak and Jeremic – obtained more than nine votes, the minimum needed in a formal vote, with no veto. (The Council’s decision to recommend a person for appointment as Secretary-General by the General Assembly is deemed a matter of substance which under Article 27 (3) of the Charter requires “an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of permanent members”.) However, given that these are secret ballots there is no reliable information on which of the “discourage” votes could translate into vetoes from the permanent members in a formal ballot. Next month’s colour-coded straw poll will provide an indication of the possible vetoes that any candidate may be facing. However, since all straw polls remain secret votes, which permanent member has cast a negative vote or “red ballot” will not be revealed, unless the permanent member chooses to make it known.

While this fifth straw poll may serve to cement the positions of some candidates, only if there is a candidate with no “disapprove” votes will it reveal definitively that a candidate currently has the support to become the next Secretary-General. The results of the colour-coded straw poll are likely to provide a better indication of how quickly the Council will be able to make a recommendation.

Separately, discussions are continuing among some members of the General Assembly about a more substantive appointment resolution. On 29 August, the General Assembly held a debate on the content and appointment of facilitators for the Secretary-General appointment resolution. Twenty-eight delegations participated with almost all of them stressing the need for facilitators to be appointed immediately so that the draft resolution would be ready once the Council made its recommendation. Among those that raised concerns about having facilitators were China, France, the UK and the US, while Russia said it would not oppose the appointment of facilitators. The Office of the President of the General Assembly has decided to task two Special Advisers from his office to consult with member states on the best way forward towards the appointment resolution..

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