Hopes for a woman to lead the UN appear to be fading as Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres maintained his lead in the fourth round of informal polls to elect the next UN Secretary General, with men occupying the top four positions out of the 10 contenders. The 15-nation UN Security Council held the fourth round of the so-called straw polls here yesterday and Guterres continued his lead, getting 12 encourage, two discourage and one no opinion votes.
In the last straw poll conducted on August 29, he had garnered 11 encourage and three discourage votes. Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the first two rounds of informal voting.
Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcák remained on the second spot getting 10 encourage votes, four discourage
and one no opinion. He had gained the most in the last round of voting, moving from the 10th position to second.
In third place is former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, followed by former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim.
Director-general of UNESCO Irina Bokova slipped from the last round’s third place to fifth place in the latest round.
She is followed by former Slovenian President Danilo Turk and Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra. Other women candidates were at the bottom of the pack, with New Zealand ex-premier Helen Clark on the eighth spot, followed by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica and Moldova’s ex-Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman. This round was the first time that the five permanent members could use their veto and one did so for Gherman discouraging her.
The next poll will be on the September 26, towards the end of the high-level General Debate, when heads of state and government will descend on the world body’s headquarters for the 71st session of the General Assembly. Apart from increased call from UN member states to make the election process of the world’s top diplomat more transparent, there is a growing chorus for a woman to be elected for the top job.
The UN has been headed by a male Secretary General in all of its 70-year history. The current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is the eighth occupant of the world body. He took office in January 2007 and will be ending his 10-year tenure on December 31, 2016.
However, hopes for a woman to be elected are fading since no female candidate has emerged as the front-runner in the straw polls conducted so far.
Civil society organisation Woman SG Campaign, among those leading the call for a woman to lead the world body, said even though the top four slots were occupied by men, the women candidates saw their numbers rise.
“WomanSG considers it even more important to stay in the fight. Irina Bokova is still in the top five, and even though she and Malcorra dropped relative to the others, everything is still in a state of flux,” it said.