Russia said yesterday (3 October) that it would like to see a woman as the next UN secretary general and would back a candidate from Eastern Europe.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country holds the Security Council presidency this month, also said a formal vote to pick a successor to Ban Ki-moon could happen soon.
“We do believe that it is the turn of Eastern Europe to provide the next secretary general,” Churkin told a news conference, adding: “We would very much like to see a woman.”
His comments came less than a week after Bulgaria switched candidates for the position, putting forward Kristalina Georgieva, the European budget commissioner and a former World Bank vice president.
However, Irina Bokova, the initial Bulgarian candidate and UNESCO Director General, remained in the race in a private capacity.
Strictly speaking, there are three women from Eastern Europe in the race – Bokova, Georgieva and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman.
Georgieva, who took unpaid leave to campaign, appeared before the UN General Assembly yesterday, fielding questions over two hours on everything from the war in Syria to the refugee crisis and climate change.
The contest for UN chief will head into new territory tomorrow, when the five permanent council members – Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States – are set to vote using colored ballots to indicate whether the candidates would face a veto when the council moves to a formal vote.
Five straw polls so far have been held with white ballots.
— WFUNA (@WFUNA) September 26, 2016
Portugal’s former prime minister Antonio Guterres has been the frontrunner so far after taking the number-one spot in all five of the Security Council’s straw polls.
The Eastern European group is the only one that has not had a Secretary General so far (see background).
According to UN tradition, the world is divided into regional groups. The Eastern European group comprises Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union, and of the Soviet bloc, including all new EU members from Central and Eastern Europe and all the EU candidate countries except Turkey.
Portugal is part of the “Western European and Others” group, which also includes the US and Canada.
Churkin said there was “a good chance that a few days after” Wednesday’s straw poll, the council will formally vote to pick a nominee, who will then be presented to the General Assembly for approval.
The new secretary general will begin work on 1 January 2017.