What's In Blue

Posted Thu 8 Sep 2016

Fourth Straw Poll to Select the Next Secretary-General

Tomorrow (9 September), Council members will hold the fourth straw poll in the process to select the next Secretary-General. Like the first three straw polls held on 21 July, 5 and 29 August, this ballot will not differentiate between the elected and permanent members. At press time, all ten candidates who had been voted on in the third straw poll were expected to be on the ballot papers.

On 1 September, Council members discussed the selection of the next Secretary-General during the regular monthly breakfast of Council permanent representatives hosted by New Zealand, as president of the Council for September. New Zealand informed members that because it has a candidate vying for the position of Secretary-General, it had asked Russia, as the next president of the Council, to manage the conduct of any straw polls in September. It appears that New Zealand has chosen to recuse itself from certain activities related to the selection process in line with Rule 20 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure which states:

“Whenever the President of the Security Council deems that for the proper fulfillment of the responsibilities of the presidency he should not preside over the Council during the consideration of a particular question with which the member he represents is directly connected, he shall indicate his decision to the Council. The presidential chair shall then devolve, for the purpose of the consideration of that question, on the representative of the member next in English alphabetical order, it being understood that the provisions of this rule shall apply to the representatives on the Security Council called upon successively to preside.”

At the breakfast, Council members agreed to have undifferentiated straw polls on 9 and 26 September, followed by the first colour-coded straw poll in early October. Although it would not be long after the third straw poll, a number of members thought it would be useful to have a straw poll on 9 September as it would provide an updated picture of the position of various candidates prior to the high-level week of the General Assembly, when discussions about the candidates may involve heads of state and government. It seems that Russia was initially sceptical about having a fourth straw poll so close to the third, and preferred to move to a colour-coded ballot more quickly, but was eventually persuaded to accept two more undifferentiated straw polls and the first colour-coded during its presidency in October.

Another issue that was discussed during the breakfast was the fact that although the straw polls are meant to be secret, the results of the three straw polls had become public very quickly. While several Council members are in favour of the Council providing more information on the results, it seems that Russia strongly argued that as a matter of principle only Council members should have the information and the Council should not release more information than had been agreed on. For the fourth straw poll, therefore, the Council will continue to provide candidates with their own results, and the highest and lowest scores, and inform the president of the General Assembly only that the straw poll has taken place.

The results of the first three straw polls were:

Candidate First Straw Poll (Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion Expressed) Second Straw Poll (Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion Expressed) Third Straw Poll (Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion Expressed)
António Guterres  12-0-3  11-2-2  11-3-1
Danilo Türk  11-2-2  7-5-3  5-6-4
Irina Bokova  9-4-2  7-7-1  7-5-3
Vuk Jeremić  9-5-1  8-4-3  7-5-3
Srgjan Kerim  9-5-1  6-7-2 6-7-2
Helen Clark  8-5-2  6-8-1  6-8-1
Miroslav Lajčák  7-3-5  2-6-7  9-5-1
Susana Malcorra  7-4-4  8-6-1  7-7-1
Christiana Figueres  5-5-5  5-8-2  2-12-1
Natalia Gherman  4-4-7  3-10-2  2-12-1
Igor Lukšić  3-7-5  2-9-4
Vesna Pusić  2-11-2


Change of Votes


In the third straw poll, excluding the results for Luksic who withdrew after the second straw poll, there were 64 percent encourage votes, the same percentage as in the second straw poll, while the number of discourage votes went up by 11 percent, and no opinion expressed votes decreased by 25 percent. Compared to the first two straw polls, it seems members’ views did not shift radically regarding most candidates, but a substantial change was seen in relation to Lajcak, who received nine encourage votes, compared to two in the second straw poll, and moved from seven “no opinion” to one, propelling him from second from the bottom to second place. In all three straw polls, Guterres has made the strongest showing, obtaining consistently high encourage votes but moving from no disapproval votes in the first round to two in the second round and three in the third round.

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”. Following the third straw poll, two candidates, Guterres and Lajcak, garnered nine or more votes, the minimum number needed if this were a formal vote. Half the candidates received seven or more “discourage” votes. All the candidates other than Lajcak and Bokova had an increase in “discourage” votes, with Guterres still receiving the least. Without colour-coding, it is unclear which “discourage” votes are from permanent members. A clearer picture of where permanent members are voting to discourage and may veto is only expected when the first colour-coded ballot takes place in October.

There was no deadline for nominating candidates for Secretary-General in the 15 December 2015 joint letter from the president of the Security Council and the president of the General Assembly inviting member states to formally nominate candidates. As a result, it is still possible for new candidates to emerge at this stage in the process. Even for candidates coming in at this late stage, there is a general understanding that the same process of formal nomination and General Assembly informal dialogues – generally referred to as hearings – should apply. The current President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, who has been instrumental in ensuring that the General Assembly is an integral part of the process, will step down on 13 September. The incoming president of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson of Fiji, who takes over the position on 13 September, has publicly committed to hold hearings for any new candidates.

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