Portugal’s Antonio Guterres set to become next UN chief

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is set to become the next head of the United Nations after he emerged on Wednesday as the favoured candidate among UN Security Council members.

Mr. Guterres, also former head of the UN refugee agency, had been in the lead during five previous straw polls and got no vetoes in the latest poll to find a replacement for South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon.

He got 13 encouraging votes and two abstentions from the 15-member council.

None of the permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia or the U.S. — signaled an intention to cast a veto against Guterres in a formal vote.

“Today, after our sixth straw poll, we have a clear favourite and his name is Antonio Guterres,’’ Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, told reporters, with ambassadors representing all members of council standing next to him.

The council will take a formal vote later Thursday and will then send its recommendation to the UN General Assembly, which will make the final decision in a vote seen as a formality.

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The secretary general oversees all of the operations of the 193-member UN, acting as its chief administrator and top envoy in global trouble spots.

According to Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN, it is an important day for the Security Council coming together, uniting behind Antonio Guterres.

“Guterres will make a very strong, effective secretary general of the UN at a crucial time for the world and for this organisation,” Mr. Rycroft said.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said that the breakthrough was Mr. Guterres performance and experience.

“In the end, there was just a candidate whose experience, vision, and versatility across a range of areas proved compelling,” Ms. Power told journalists.

The two officials said Mr. Guterres would make a statement in Lisbon after the formal vote.

All of the other nine candidates in the race for next chief got vetoes, a diplomat said on the condition of anonymity, since the straw poll was secret.

The EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who entered the race just recently, received five encouraging and eight discouraging votes, including two vetoes from permanent members.

Two countries expressed no opinion on her candidacy.

However current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has held the post for the last 10 years, is stepping down at the end of the year as his second term comes to an end.

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