ELECTIONS OF THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: U.S. VS. ASIA


25.09.06
NEW YORK. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)

Late last week, five permanent members of the UN Security Council gathered for a closed ministerial meeting to discuss Kofi Annan’s successor. Being part of the complicated electoral procedure, it did not produce any sensations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a participant in the meeting, said that the five ministers exchanged opinion on the “current situation” and “compared their approaches.” He confirmed that the Russian approach – to vote for a “candidate from Asia” – remains valid.

Kofi Annan’s term expires on December 31. The place for his portrait among former secretaries-general on the wall of the corridor at the visitors’ entrance to the UN is already marked with a not very neat piece of adhesive tape.

It became clear that there is a problem with the successor when the Baltic nations suggested Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga for the post, and a candidate from Afghanistan appeared later. Those who are well versed in the mechanics of the UN procedures say that the candidacy of the Latvian president is not serious, and not only because she is directly involved in the formation of what is essentially a racist state (a file on Latvia, where one fifth of the population have no voting rights, is currently in the UN Human Rights Council). The main intrigue is that the real favorites are already well known: these are the candidates who have the support of the General Assembly, that is, representatives of all 192 UN members. The new candidates, who are said to be thrown in by the United States, simply do not stand a chance.

The procedure is that the Security Council recommends one candidate for consideration of the General Assembly, and it approves or discards it.

What is happening within the Security Council is a much more complex procedure – a game with multicolored cards. It will be particularly interesting on September 28, when its permanent members will have red cards, or the right to veto decisions. None of the five countries should object to the candidate, and the Latvian president is guaranteed at least one veto – from Russia.

So far, the leader is South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon. After the last game he got only one incognito red card, whereas others have three or even more. Kofi Annan’s deputy Shashi Tharoor is the runner-up, and the third place belongs to Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, whose destiny is unknown because of the coup. There are also candidates from Jordan and Sri Lanka, but they are far behind.

When Kofi Annan was re-elected for the second term five years ago, the Security Council and the UN in general agreed informally that his successor would be from Asia. The principle of rotation is logical – the UN should not be in the hands of Europeans or Africans alone. Finally, there is one more long-standing tradition – a Secretary-General should not represent any of the great powers, which already have enough advantages in the UN and the world as a whole.

Sources from the Russian Foreign Ministry report that Russian diplomacy agrees with the majority of UN member states on the Asian candidate. As for the majority, for Moscow the Indian candidate is as good as the Korean one; the Thai candidate is equally acceptable, as long as the rotation principle is adhered to.

But this is the principle to which the Latvian president objected openly in her recent speech in the UN. In other words, she disagreed in advance with the majority of her “voters.”

It is important to understand that if the Security Council names a candidate who suits its permanent and non-permanent members, but is not approved by the General Assembly, he will not be elected, or will be elected with a minimal advantage, which is even worse, because in that case the UN will receive a Secretary-General of a lower legitimacy. This will be an obvious crisis.

Moscow wants to prevent another crisis in the UN in the belief that all other considerations are secondary. UN members are already criticizing the procedure of electing the Secretary-General as undemocratic and as a sign of dominance in the UN, and, hence, in the world of the five members with the veto in the Security Council. For this reason India and Canada have submitted a proposal to establish a separate committee on elections, and deprive the Security Council of the right to play their colored cards.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Security Council a body of threats and pressure in his UN speech several days ago, he knew who his audience was. Many of those countries which were formerly regarded as third world, if not third-rate, have a growing influence on the world’s economy and politics. All debates on the UN reform show that the majority considers it logical to expand the Security Council and include the new leaders, as well as delegates from Africa, Latin America, etc., and give them all the right of veto. Many would be even less pleased with the current Security Council if it fails to select the obvious successor – a candidate from Asia.

Many Russians view the appearance of the candidate from Latvia as an insult. But there is one more version – this may be a belated attempt to paralyze, if not destroy, the UN as a whole. There was a time when the U.S. thought that the UN was an obstacle to wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Experts in UN internal diplomacy are confident of the third version – all three Asian candidates have got out of favor with the U.S., and it wants to create a crisis in order to throw in one more candidate – Chan Heng Chee, Singaporean Ambassador to the U.S., who is certainly from Asia, but has lived in America for about ten years.

There is also a fourth version. What we are witnessing is not some cunning U.S. intrigue but the failure of American diplomacy, because the U.S. is in big trouble if it has set itself against Asia and the Muslim world, not to mention the UN.

The U.S. could give up its illusions about selecting a convenient successor after its experience with Kofi Annan, who was regarded an “American candidate” as well. He became the favorite of the Security Council right after its members failed to agree on several obvious candidates.

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