• Secret voting for new UN secretary-general

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    UNITED NATIONS: After months of public campaigning, debates and open hearings, Security Council ambassadors huddle behind closed doors on Thursday to begin secret voting for a new secretary-general to lead the world body.

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    The 15 council members including the powerful permanent five—Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States—will each rate the 12 candidates running for the top job with a ballot marked “encourage,” “discourage” or “no opinion.”

    The results of the first round of straw polls will not be announced, but they will be communicated to the governments that have put forward candidates to replace Ban Ki-moon in January.

    Among the top contenders are Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, Slovenia’s ex-President Danilo Turk, New Zealand’s ex-Prime Minister Helen Clark and Antonio Guterres, who served as Portugal’s prime minister and headed the UN refugee agency.

    Six of the 12 candidates are women. The bulk of the contenders—eight—are from eastern Europe.

    The secret vote follows a new, more open process that for the first time in the UN’s history provided for hearings to allow candidates to present their pitch for the top job before the General Assembly.

    UN member states have complained for years that the secretary-general is chosen not for his or her ability to lead the world body but to serve the permanent five members.

    One of the most energetic campaigners in the race, Clark said the new transparency had allowed “a different type of candidate” to emerge, with less emphasis on diplomatic background.

    “This process has thrown up more personal leadership experience and presentation experience,” Clark told Agence France-Presse ahead of the vote.

    “The issue is: will the more transparent process, which has produced a different profile of candidate, lead to a different result? That’s an open question.”

    Security Council members are facing calls to pick the first woman after eight men in the job, and to give preference to a candidate from eastern Europe, the only region that has yet to be represented in the top post.

    However, divisions among Eastern Europeans have meant that no clear frontrunner has emerged from that region.

    More candidates from eastern Europe could come forward as a result of the vote. Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is also expected to throw his hat in the ring.

    Ukraine, which will be casting its straw poll as a non-permanent council member, is not committed to backing a candidate from eastern Europe.

    AFP

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