Issue 17 - 14 September 2006 - Second Straw Poll Echoes First

New York, 14 September 2006

Results of Second Straw Poll

Flouting the “closed-door” tradition of SG selection meetings, two members of the UN Security Council told reporters the results of Thursday’s straw poll. The ambassadors of Argentina and China (Cesar Mayoral and Wang Guangya, respectively) said after the meeting that Ban Ki Moon had received the highest number of “encourage” votes, followed by Shashi Tharoor, Surakiart Sathirathai, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, and Jayantha Dhanapala.

The lowest scorers were also those candidates with the highest number of “no opinion” votes, which means that once the ambassadors in New York have complete instruction from their capitols, the ranking could change markedly. The full scores are reported on the weblog UNSG.org

Improvements in Transparency to Date

The quick release of the results is one element of the relative transparency of this year’s selection process.

Another element is that only those candidates who have been formally submitted by a Member State may be included in the straw polls – this was a rule affirmed by France as the President of the Security Council earlier this year. In a letter to the President of the General Assembly on 6 July he described “the process of consideration of candidacies which will have been presented to its President by a member State.” To date, all of the declared candidates have been nominated formally by a Member State.

The April 2006 Open Letter from NGOs to the Security Council and General Assembly called for four basic improvements to the selection process; modest progress has been made to date:

Formal Candidate Qualifications: Not established.

Official Timetable with Systematic Reporting: A timeline has been mentioned by September’s President of the Security Council, Ambassador Vassilakis of Greece, and reporting about meetings has occurred at points in the process, in particular the June and July letters from the Security Council President to the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Vassilakis’ press statement, and Security Council members’ decision to release the results of Thursday’s straw poll.

Procedures for Assessment of Candidates: Not established in this year’s selection, but discussed at length in recent negotiations over Resolution on General Assembly Revitalization.

Gender and Geographic Diversity Considerations: Member States who have spoken on this issue are almost unanimous in supporting the concept of regional rotation. Gender diversity considerations, however, have been absent from government commentary, with the exception of Ambassador Bolton of the U.S., who has said it should be a woman’s turn to hold the post.

Expected Developments

The next straw poll – tentatively scheduled for 28 September – will take a very different form, according to delegates. Coming after the visiting government leaders have had a chance to meet with candidates, the third poll likely will revert to previous years’ practice of using ballots of one color for permanent members and another color for non-permanent members. A candidate needs the affirmative vote of all five permanent members of the Council in order to be recommended to the General Assembly for appointment. Therefore, the upcoming color-coded poll will mark a new stage in the selection process, in which a “discourage” vote from a permanent member could result in the candidate’s withdrawal. Some governments and current candidates have indicated that they expect permanent members to use their veto in order to advance their own “dark horse” candidates. (Past successful candidates, however, have received “discourage” votes from permanent members.)

A series of these color-coded polls between late September and early October supposedly will reduce the field of candidates. At that point, it is expected that the Security Council will begin voting. Meanwhile, bilateral negotiations between permanent members likely will take place, with the US-China differences expected to be the sharpest and the most crucial to resolve.