UNITED NATIONS —
Portugal’s former prime minister Antonio Guterres is holding on to his lead in the race to become the United Nation’s next secretary-general.
The U.N. Security Council held a second round of “straw polls” – informal ballots – on Friday, and diplomats with knowledge of the results said Guterres topped the pack of 11 contenders with 11 votes “encouraging” his candidacy, two “discouraging” it and two expressing “no opinion” on it.
Guterres has impressed many member states with his experience as the head of the U.N. refugee agency for a decade and as Portugal’s prime minister from 1995-2002.
In the first round of polling two weeks ago, former Slovenian president Danilo Turk had come in narrowly behind Guterres, but in the latest round he slipped to fourth place, diplomats said.
The rest of the results reflected a shuffling of the candidates from the first straw poll.
State of the race
Serbian former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic rose from fourth to take second place, with eight votes encouraging him, four discouraging and three expressing no opinion.
United Nations Security Council members are seen voting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Dec. 18, 2015. Secretaries-general are elected in a more secretive process.
Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, who had been a popular U.N. official until recently, saw her fortunes rise, moving from a poor 7th place showing two weeks ago to third place on Friday. She also had eight encouraging votes, but six discourages and one no opinion.
Irina Bokova, who heads UNESCO, slipped from her original third place to fifth. While New Zealand’s former prime minister and the head of the U.N. Development Program Helen Clark remained in the middle of the pack in the number 7 slot, behind Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia.
On Thursday, Croatia’s deputy parliament speaker Vesna Pusic withdrew her candidacy, saying the “selection has not gone in my direction.” She finished last two weeks ago.
The council is likely to hold several more rounds of polls before making a final decision. No date has been announced for the next round. The winner will take over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, 2017.
At this point in the process, voting is intended to be anonymous with all 15 council members filling out identical ballots with identical pens by an identical check mark in a box. They must then identically fold the ballot three times before submitting it for counting. Afterwards, ballots are shredded. The results of the polls are also not supposed to be made public, but are leaked widely to media and other diplomats.