Portugal’s Guterres looks set to become next UN chief

Security Council flags Antonio Guterres as its unanimous choice for the next United Nations secretary general.

Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres has been tipped as the next United Nations secretary-general after none of the five Security Council veto-wielding powers voted against him in a sixth secret ballot on Wednesday.

The 15-member Security Council cast ballots for each of the 10 candidates with the choices of “encourage, discourage, or no opinion”. Guterres received 13 encourage votes and two no opinion votes.

“Today, after our sixth straw poll, we have a clear favourite and his name is Antonio Guterres,” 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, and we hope it can be done by acclamation,” said Churkin, who is council president for October.

For Guterres to be formally recommended to the 193-member General Assembly for election, the Security Council still needs to adopt a resolution behind closed doors. The resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes to pass.

READ MORE: Debates shine only a half-light on UN boss selection

“After five straw polls taking place previously with Antonio Guterres coming out in front, this was the first straw poll where there were coloured ballot papers to represent the five permanent members of the Security Council,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the UN, said.

“So in the first poll you could tell whether any of those five powers who have veto power were going to be prepared to veto any of the candidates – and which candidates they were going to veto.

“The fact that [Guterres] had no ‘discourage’ meant that no one was against him, including no vetoes from any of those coloured ballots of the five members of the Security Council, and that meant that he is now the settled choice of the Security Council.”

Guterres is a former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.

During his tenure as refugee commissioner, from 2005 to 2015, Guterres oversaw the most profound structural reform process in the UNHCR’s history and built up the organisation’s ability to respond to the largest displacement crises since the end of World War II.

He led the UN response to the Syrian civil war, the European migration crisis, the 2014 conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Gaza conflict of 2009, and the aftermath of natural disasters such as the 2004 Asian tsunami.

“This is an important day for the Security Council coming together, uniting behind Antonio Guterres, who will make a very strong, effective secretary-general of the United Nations at a crucial time for the world and for this organisation,” said Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN. 

The UN Debate

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies