What's In Blue

Secretary-General Appointment: First Colour-Coded Ballot

Council members will hold their first colour-coded straw poll tomorrow. Since July, five undifferentiated straw polls have been held, but this ballot will provide the first clear indication of which candidates could face a veto in a formal vote. The ballot papers will have three columns marked “encourage”, “discourage” and “no opinion expressed”, as before, but with the permanent members being given red ballot papers. Depending on the results, the Council may choose to hold another colour-coded straw poll, or could move to a formal vote on a candidate or candidates, and a resolution conveying its recommendation for the next Secretary-General to the General Assembly.

The system of using straw polls in the selection of the Secretary-General was an innovation created to break the deadlock in 1981 between Kurt Waldheim (Austria), who after serving two terms as Secretary-General had chosen to run for an unprecedented third term, and Salim Ahmed Salim (Tanzania). Colour-coded ballot papers differentiating between the permanent and elected members were used for the first time in 1991; they had previously been used in formal secret ballots, but this appears to have been the first time such a system was introduced in the context of an informal vote. They have been part of every selection process since then.

The number of colour-coded rounds has varied. In 1991 and 2006 the Council moved to a formal vote after only one colour-coded ballot, whereas in 1996 there were six colour-coded straw polls before the Council recommended Kofi Annan in a formal ballot.
On 28 September, Bulgaria nominated Kristalina Georgieva as its “sole and unique candidate”. It seems that before agreeing to the joint circulation of the letter from the Bulgarian government nominating Georgieva, a number of Council members – Angola, Malaysia, Russia, Uruguay and Venezuela – asked for further clarification that this meant that the Bulgarian government was no longer supporting Irina Bokova, the candidate it had nominated in February. The Bulgarian government’s response made clear that it now supports only Georgieva and that its decision to do so revoked its earlier decision to nominate Bokova. The joint letter was eventually circulated later that day. Following the Bulgarian government’s clarification and after a short discussion, Council members agreed to retain Bokova too on the ballot. Subsequently, letters from Latvia and Poland conveying support for Georgieva have been circulated to Council members. Although Georgieva is a late entrant to the selection process, the procedures established with the other candidates have been followed. The General Assembly held an informal dialogue with Georgieva on 3 October, and Council members met with her on 4 October.

Thus, the following ten candidates will be on the ballot tomorrow: Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria), 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). (Vesna Pusić (Croatia), Igor Lukšić (Montenegro) and Christina Figueres (Costa Rica) have withdrawn.)

Annex 1: (Votes are in the order of Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion Expressed)

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


Change of Votes


In the fifth straw poll, the number of “encourage” votes for the remaining candidates went down by nine percent, while the “discourage” votes went up by 22 percent and the “no opinion expressed” votes decreased by 46%. From the increase in “discourage” votes, as well as the continuing fall in the “no opinion” votes, it appears that members are taking firmer positions on the candidates. Guterres retained the number one spot, obtaining the same results as he did in the fourth straw poll. Lajcak, who was in the number two spot in the third and fourth straw polls moved to the third spot, with Jeremic moving up from the third to second position. In all five undifferentiated straw polls, Guterres has been the front runner, while the second spot and at least three of the top five spots have been taken by Eastern Europeans. The leading woman candidates have been Malcorra and Bokova; in the fifth straw poll, they were in fourth (tied with Turk) and sixth places, respectively. Since the first straw poll, when Guterres did not have a “discourage” vote cast against him, all the candidates have received a greater or lesser number of “discourage” votes.

In the last few months, the Council as a whole has discussed the process around the Secretary-General selection mainly at the informal breakfast of permanent representatives held at the start of each month to discuss the programme of work. While the E10 have met informally to discuss possible next steps, most recently on 3 October, there has not been a full Council discussion of how to proceed following the colour-coded straw poll. It is possible that if the colour-coded straw poll tomorrow results in one candidate receiving nine votes or more with no negative vote from a permanent member, the Council could move rapidly to a formal vote. In the past, the permanent members have usually been the ones to decide at which point to move to a formal vote, but this year, elected members appear to have an interest in being involved any such decision.

In this context, it seems that Council members may receive a briefing on the formal vote from the Secretariat tomorrow afternoon, following the morning’s straw poll, which could allow for a discussion of next steps. A non-paper on procedure for the formal vote on the Secretary-General selection was circulated by the Secretariat last week at the request of the Council presidency, outlining how the Council could hold a formal vote according to various scenarios. The alternatives covered were proceeding with the recommendation of a candidate without a vote (i.e. by acclamation), voting by ballot on one candidate, and voting on more than one candidate. It seems that elected members have a number of questions regarding the procedures around the formal vote, including when a formal vote is taken on the candidate/s and when the vote proceeds to a recommendation resolution. With the large number of candidates still choosing to remain in the straw polls, members are also thinking about what might need to be done to narrow the field.

Tags: , ,
Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications