UNITED NATIONS - Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa have been elected to two-year terms on the U.N. Security Council.
The five will join the 15-nation body responsible for maintaining international peace and security on Jan. 1, 2019.
The vote Friday in the U.N. General Assembly generated little suspense, as all but one regional group ran a clean slate. The only contested seat was in the Asian-Pacific group, where Indonesia overwhelming beat Maldives 144-46.
Member states cast secret ballots and candidates must win a two-thirds majority of votes to succeed, even if they are running uncontested. Candidate countries capped off their campaigns with parties in the lead-up to the election.
Lindiwe Sisulu, International Relations Minister of South Africa, welcomed her country's opportunity to sit on the council for a third time. South Africa has served two previous terms in 2007-'08 and 2011-'12.
She said her government would advocate for closer cooperation between the council and the African Union, and address its efforts toward conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
"We believe that peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women — in peace negotiations, peacekeeping operations, and post-conflict peace-building and governance," Sisulu told reporters. "During our tenure, we will ensure that a gender perspective is mainstreamed into all Security Council resolutions," she added.
Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi welcomed her country's victory over "good friend" the Maldives. She said her government's priorities would include combating terrorism and radicalism through developing a comprehensive global approach that addresses the root causes of the problem.
Germany has served on the council five times before and would like to see the Security Council's membership expanded to include a permanent seat for it.
"This is an especially important opportunity for Germany, which has sometimes punched below its weight at the U.N.," Richard Gowan, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a U.N. analyst, told VOA. "In the past, Britain and France have been the decisive European players at the U.N., but Brexit means that Germany will need to step up and speak for Europe more forcefully at the UN," he added.
Israel had originally sought a seat on the council, but withdrew its candidacy on May 4, saying it was "postponing" it after consulting with its partners and friends. It was seeking one of two available seats in the "Western Europe and Others Group" and was competing against Belgium and Germany.
Israel has never held a seat on the council and analyst Gowan says it "was always a long shot" which was upended by the current crisis in the Gaza Strip.
"I think that the Israelis will be pretty comfortable that the U.S. has their back in the Security Council," Gowan added. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has been a vocal defender of Israel against what she says is the U.N.'s anti-Israel bias. She has wielded the U.S. veto twice in the past six months in Israel's favor in the council.
Countries joining the council are doing so at a difficult moment.
"Tensions between Russia and the West are starting to paralyze the organization," Gowan said. "The temporary members are often powerless when the permanent five are divided." But he notes that some recent elected members, including Sweden and Australia, have won respect for breaking impasses with compromises on issues such as humanitarian aid in Syria.
The five new council members will replace Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Netherlands and Sweden, whose terms end Dec. 31, 2018. They will join the other nonpermanent members — Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland — as well as the permanent five — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.