The United Nations Security Council has unanimously agreed that Portugal’s former prime minister Antonio Guterres should be the next UN Secretary-General.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin made the announcement surrounded by the 14 other council ambassadors after they held a sixth informal poll of the 10 candidates behind closed doors.
Mr Churkin announced that the council would hold a formal vote on Thursday morning to recommend Mr Guterres to the 193-member General Assembly, which must approve a successor to Ban Ki-moon, whose second five-year term ends on December 31.
By tradition, the job has rotated among the regions. Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the post. Eastern European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and that it should be their turn.
There has also never been a woman secretary-general, and more than 50 nations and many others campaigned to elect the first female UN chief.
But Mr Guterres, who served as the UN’s high commissioner for refugees until December, topped all six polls despite being from western Europe.
For the first time this year, the General Assembly’s members held two-hour question-and-answer sessions with all 13 candidates who entered the race, and in the eyes of many diplomats Mr Guterres performed the best.
In the fifth “straw” poll, however, he still received two “discourage” votes, and there was a lot of speculation about whether Russia, which is a member of the East European group, would vote for him.
The sixth informal poll on Wednesday morning was the first to use coloured ballots to distinguish the votes of the five veto-wielding Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, the UK and France. Diplomats said in the vote that Mr Guterres received 13 “encourage” votes, no “discourage” votes, and two registering “no opinion”.
Mr Churkin paid tribute to all 13 candidates who entered the race before announcing the Security Council’s support for Mr Guterres. Three dropped out before Wednesday’s vote, leaving five men and five women in the race.