What's In Blue

Posted Thu 10 Jun 2021

Security Council Elections 2021

Tomorrow (11 June), the 75th session of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections for the five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2022-2023.

The five seats available for election in 2021, according to the regular distribution among regions, are:

  • two seats for the African Group (currently held by Niger and Tunisia);
  • one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group, currently held by Viet Nam);
  • one seat for the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC, currently held by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines); and
  • one seat for the Eastern European Group (currently held by Estonia).

All of this year’s candidates—Gabon, Ghana, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Brazil, and Albania—are currently running unopposed. Since 2010, 78 percent of races for Council seats have been uncontested.

Earlier this year, there was competition for the African Group seats, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced that it was joining the race in early May. However, on 7 June, the DRC sent a note verbale informing the UN Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly that it had withdrawn its candidature.

The AU Executive Council endorsed the candidatures of Gabon and Ghana at the AU’s 38th Ordinary Session in February. When it entered the race, the DRC questioned the validity of the Executive Council’s endorsement of Gabon, which is in the Central Africa sub-region, like the DRC. It maintained that the AU’s 34th Summit of the Heads of State and Government had decided on 7 May that consultations should continue at the regional level (Central Africa sub-region) to achieve compromise on a single candidate from this sub-region. However, in its 7 June note verbale, the DRC said that it was withdrawing from the race to “strengthen the unity of the continent and preserve the atmosphere of fraternity in Central Africa”. It further indicated that it would run in the 2025 Security Council elections for a seat in 2026-2027.

Elections for seats allocated to African member states are usually uncontested, as the African Group maintains an established rotation pattern among its five sub-regions (North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Central Africa). The pattern has been interrupted from time to time: In 2020, for example, Djibouti and Kenya (both from the East Africa sub-region) contested the single African seat for the 2021-2022 term. Kenya, which had been endorsed by the AU in August 2019, won the seat. Prior to 2020, the last contested election in the African Group was in 2011, when three candidates (Mauritania, Morocco and Togo) ran for the two seats allotted to the group. In 2013, Nigeria and the Gambia were contesting one seat, but the Gambia dropped out of the race before the election.

The UAE is running for the single Asia-Pacific Group seat this year. (Arab countries are a sub-group within the Asia-Pacific Group.) The League of Arab States and the Asia-Pacific Group endorsed the UAE’s candidature in 2012 and in 2020, respectively. If elected, the UAE will also fill the “Arab Swing Seat”, which alternates every odd calendar year between the Asia-Pacific Group and the African Group. The Arab Swing Seat will be vacated by Tunisia on 31 December 2021.

Brazil, the GRULAC candidate, has served on the Council ten times since 1946. If elected for an 11th term, it will tie Japan as the elected member with the most Council terms.

The Eastern European Group candidate, Albania, announced its candidacy for the 2022-2023 term in 2009. If elected, this will be Albania’s first time serving on the Security Council.

Even if a country is running on a “clean slate”—that is, unopposed—it must obtain the votes of two-thirds of the member states present and voting at the General Assembly session in order to secure a seat on the Council. This means that a minimum of 129 positive votes are required to win a seat if all 193 UN member states are present and voting.

Elections to the Security Council, as with other principal organs of the UN, require formal balloting even if the candidates have been endorsed by their regional group and are running unopposed. In theory, a member state running unopposed might not garner the requisite votes in the General Assembly in the first round, and be challenged in subsequent rounds by a new candidate. This is possible, but highly unlikely.

For more in-depth analysis of tomorrow’s elections, please see our 2 June research report titled “Security Council Elections 2021.

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