3 Stories To Watch for in Today’s Security Council Elections

UPDATE: Rwanda, Australia and Argentina are in. Now, there’s a run-off between Luxembourg and Finland; and Korea and Cambodia.  Those pour souls in Luxembourg lost out in the first round by just ONE vote.

UPDATE  2: Korea bests Cambodia and Luxembourg beats Finland! Two rounds of voting–not bad!

Five of the 10 non-permanent member seats are up for grabs in today’s Security Council elections. As with most UN bodies, the Security Council operates under the principal of equitable geographic distribution, meaning that seats are reserved for countries from various regions.

The elections today will fill: 1 seat for the African Group; 1 seat for the Asia-Pacific region; 1 seat for Latin American and the Caribbean; and 2 seats for the “Western Europe and Others” group.  To win a seat a country must secure the votes of at least two thirds of the General Assembly (that’s 129 “yay” votes).  The term lasts two years.

Those are the facts. Here’s the drama:

1) Rwanda is the only African candidate “running” for the only African seat. Normally, this would mean that Rwanda is assured its spot. However, Rwanda has come under fire recently –by the Security Council no less! — for its alleged support of a rebel group in the Eastern DRC.  Donor countries, particularly in Europe, have grown increasingly sour on President Paul Kagame. Just yesterday,  in what looks quite apparently like a bid to undermine Rwanda’s candidacy, someone leaked to Reuters details of a Security Council report accusing his defense minister of aiding Congolese rebels. Unless there is some behind the scenes politicking by western states to deny Rwanda the requisite number of yay votes, chances are it will prevail.

2) 3 Asian countries — Bhutan, Cambodia and the Republic of Korea — are vying for one spot.  Cambodia is probably the long shot, given its government’s contentious relationship with the UN-backed special tribunal for Khmer Rouge war crimes. Bhutan is a tiny mountain kingdom in the Himalayas, most famous in UN circles for its championing of a social development index based on “Gross National Happiness.” It’s candidacy would be fairly non-controversial. Korea, though, would make for an interesting pick given that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was once Korea’s foreign minister. Depending on your perspective, that may boost or undermine Korea’s chances of winning the seat.

3) Perhaps the most hotly contested seats are the two being vacated by Germany and Portugal. The Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) is basically western Europe and other likeminded countries (USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc). Competing to fill those two fill seats are Australia, Luxembourg and Finland. One of those countries will lose out. When Portugal edged out Canada in 2010, it became something of a national shame in Ottawa (who would want to vote against peace-loving Canadians?!)  Australia has been hyping its bid since 2008, and has reportedly spent a great deal of money and diplomatic capital to promote its candidacy.  If Australia loses, the government of Julia Gillard will take a beating.

We should know the answers to all of these questions by the end of the day. You can watch the action live via UN Webcast.