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Who will be the next UN secretary general? Top official criticizes secrecy of vote

The president of the United Nations General Assembly has criticized the Security Council for not being more forthcoming following its first straw poll vote for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s replacement.

12 candidates vying for the right to replace Ban Ki-Moon, with the 1st straw poll taking place earlier today

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's current term ends next January and 12 candidates are vying to replace him. The United Nations has tried to make that selection process less opaque, but the final decision still rests with the 15-member Security Council. (Stringer/Reuters)

The president of the United Nations General Assembly has criticized the Security Council for not being more forthcoming following its first straw poll vote for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's replacement. 

While the 12 candidates and the ambassadors of their respective countries were informed of their result — as well as the highest and lowest ranking candidate — the rest of the UN was only told a first-round vote had occurred.

"Limiting the communication to the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place without any further detail adds little value," Mogens Lykketoft, from Denmark, complained in a formal statement. "[It] does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency."

The UN has tried to make the selection process less opaque by publishing the names and resumés of the candidates, holding informal public interviews with the hopefuls and hosting the first-ever candidates' debate, which was broadcast live on TV and streamed online.

But the final decision still comes down to the 15-member Security Council and more specifically, the five permanent members  — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China, also known as the P5, who have the power to veto any candidate. 

Portugal's former prime minister is reportedly leading the race to become the next secretary general of the United Nations. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Council members met behind closed doors on Thursday for the first round of voting, which is meant to whittle down the list of candidates to "a reasonable number," said Matthew Rycroft, Britain's ambassador to the UN. 

"We've never had 12 candidates before," added Rycroft, who preferred the term "private" to "secret" when referring to the vote. "This is a recruitment process … Like any other recruitment process, it needs to be done respecting the confidentiality of the candidates."

Each of the contenders is rated with ballots marked "encourage," "discourage" or "no opinion."

Portugal's former prime minister Antonio Guterres is reportedly leading the race to become the next secretary general.

Guterres, who was also the UN's high commissioner for refugees for 10 years, is up against 11 other men and women vying to replace Ban in January. They include Slovenia's former president, Danilo Turk, who is reportedly in second place after the first round of straw ballots, and Bulgaria's Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO.

Bokova is said to be clustered around the third position with Serbia's Vuk Jeremic and Macedonia's Srgjan Kerim — both former presidents of the UN General Assembly.

The next round of voting is expected to take place before the end of the month.

About the Author

Melissa Kent

Producer

Melissa Kent is a producer with CBC News covering the United Nations from its headquarters in New York City. @KentUNCBC