29 Sep 2016

Clark's UN chances 'nil' as Bulgaria picks new candidate

2:23 pm on 29 September 2016

Helen Clark's chances of becoming United Nations Secretary-General are now virtually nil after Bulgaria announced a new candidate for the role, an analyst says.

Another major blow for Helen Clark's UN leadership bid

Bulgaria's announcement is another major blow for Helen Clark's UN leadership bid Photo: RNZ/ Alexander Robertson

Bulgaria has nominated its European commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, and withdrawn its support for its previous candidate Irina Bokova.

New Zealand's Helen Clark is bidding for the role and finished seventh out of the then nine candidates in the most recent 'straw poll' of UN Security Council members.

Ms Georgieva, a vice-president of the Commission who was responsible for sorting out the European Union budget after Britain's vote to leave the bloc, had a better chance of becoming the first woman to head the global body, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said.

Mark Leon Goldberg, who edits the global affairs blog UN Dispatch, told Afternoons that Bulgaria's announcement was bad news for Miss Clark.

"Her chances before Kristalina Georgieva's entrance into the race were quite low, and now they've gone from low to virtually nil," he said.

Ms Georgieva was well-known and well-respected.

"She's a woman, and there's a lot of ... pressure to have the first female secretary-general, and she's also from eastern Europe - and there's a sense that it's eastern Europe's time to assume the top job."

Miss Clark was unlikely to drop out of the race before the next straw poll on 5 October, Mr Goldberg said.

"We don't know where Kristalina Georgieva stands until the next straw poll.

"There's no incentive for [Miss Clark] to drop out of the race until then."

The next straw poll is the first time that candidates will be able to see whether any of their 'discourage' votes are coming from the five permanent security council members - who can veto candidates.

Bulgaria's government has withdrawn its support for Irina Bokova, left, and instead thrown its weight behind new candidate Kristalina Georgieva.

Bulgaria's government has withdrawn its support for Irina Bokova, left, and instead thrown its weight behind new candidate Kristalina Georgieva. Photo: AFP

Ms Bokova, director-general of the UN's cultural arm UNESCO, said she would stay in the race to replace Ban Ki-moon after coming sixth among nine contenders in the latest round of voting at the UN Security Council on Monday.

Nearly a third of the 193 UN member states, along with civil society groups, have pushed for a female secretary-general. The nomination of the highly-regarded Ms Georgieva could revive their fading hopes, diplomats said.

Ms Georgieva, 63, a former World Bank economist, said she would present her credentials and vision for the top UN job to member states. If her bid was successful she would also be the first secretary-general from eastern Europe to take the post.

Two Bulgarian women in race

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said UN procedure did not allow for a country to withdraw a nomination and that Bokova would have to decide how to proceed.

The government had said it would reconsider its support for Bokova if she did not come first or second in the latest ballot.

But Ms Bokova, who has served as Bulgarian ambassador to France and Monaco and briefly as acting foreign minister in a Socialist government in the 1990s, said on Twitter she was fully committed to continuing the race.

Prior to Ms Georgieva's nomination, Ms Bokova told a Bulgarian newspaper the nomination of a second Bulgarian candidate would only hurt the chances of both.

Her replacement angered Bulgaria's opposition Socialist party, which said it would try to build support for a parliamentary no-confidence vote in Borisov's centre-right government over its foreign policy.

In Monday's secret ballot, the fifth in the process, former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres remained in the lead.

The 15-member Security Council will continue holding secret ballots in a bid to reach consensus on a candidate that it then recommends to the 193-member UN General Assembly for election.

South Korea's Ban is due to step down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms.

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