António Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister, will be the next UN secretary general, after the security council agreed he should replace Ban Ki-moon at the beginning of next year.
In a rare show of unity, all 15 ambassadors from the security council emerged from the sixth in a series of straw polls to announce that they had agreed on Guterres, who was UN high commissioner for refugees for a decade, and that they would confirm the choice in a formal vote on Thursday.
“Today after our sixth straw poll we have a clear favourite and his name is António Guterres,” the Russian UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters with his 14 council colleagues standing behind him.
“We have decided to go to a formal vote tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock (today), and we hope it can be done by acclamation.”
The abrupt end to the UN leadership race came as a surprise. Many observers had expected the selection process to go on late into October as the major powers struggled to promote their favourite candidates. And some thought that Russia, currently holding the presidency of the security council, would block Guterres, as Moscow had said it wanted an eastern European in the top UN job.
“I think in the end, the Russians wanted the decision to come during their presidency and to have all the security council come out and stand together at a time of so much deep division on other issues,” said a security council diplomat.
Guterres’s margin of victory was decisive. He won 13 votes in his support and two abstentions, with no one voting against him. The second-place candidate, the Slovak Miroslav Lajčák, had seven votes in support and six against him – two of them vetoes from permanent council members.
The contest to replace Ban as secretary general began in April with public hearings in the UN general assembly, the first time candidates for the job had had to make their pitch in public.
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