Portugal's ex-PM maintains lead in informal polls for UN secy-general

United Nations, Aug 6: Portugal's former premier Antonio Guterres maintained his lead in the second round of informal polls held here to elect the next UN secretary-general, even as hopes appear to fade for a woman to be elected for the first time as the world's top diplomat. [Australia declines to nominate ex-PM Kevin Rudd for UN secretary-general]

The powerful 15-nation UN Security Council held the second round of so-called straw polls yesterday. Diplomats said Guterres led the pack of 11 contenders, garnering 11 "encouraging" votes for his candidacy, two "discouraging" and two expressing "no opinion" on it.

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Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the first straw poll that was conducted last month.

Women's chances fade?

Guterres was followed by Slovenia's former president Danilo Turk and Bulgaria's Irina Bokova, who serves as Unesco director-general in the first round. The second round saw former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic rising from the fourth spot to take second place, with eight votes encouraging him, four discouraging and three expressing no opinion.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra moved up from the seventh place to third place in the second round, garnering eight encouraging votes, six discourages and one no opinion. Bokova slipped from her original third place to fifth.

Three persons from Europe have led UN so far but no woman has ever been at helm

New Zealand's former prime minister and head of the UN Development Program Helen Clark remained on the number 7 position, behind Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia. Of the 11 remaining candidates, six are men and five women. Earlier this week, Croatia's deputy parliament speaker Vesna Pusic withdrew her candidacy, saying the "selection has not gone in my direction".

She had come came last in the first ballot. Apart from increased call from UN member states to make the election process of the world's top diplomat more transparent, there is a growing chorus for a woman to be elected for the top job. The UN has been headed by a male Secretary General in all of its 70-year history.

However, hopes for a woman to be elected are fading since no female candidate has emerged as the front-runner in the two straw polls conducted so far.

The council will continue to hold straw polls until there is a majority candidate without a single veto from a permanent member of the Council. That name is then officially transferred to the Assembly, whose membership historically chooses the candidate.


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