Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard (file)

Here’s what you need to know about today’s straw poll to pick the next UN Secretary General

Updated with results, below.

The Security Council holds its fourth straw poll today to weigh members’ preferences for who should replace Ban Ki Moon when his term expires at the end of the year. Like the previous three straw polls, the ballots are anonymous, and the preferences of the veto-wielding members are not distinguished from the those of the 10 elected members of the Security Council.

However, this is the last straw poll before heads of state gather at the United Nations for the annual UN Summit, which kicks off in a week and a half.  The results today will set the stage for some high stakes, behind-the-scenes stakes diplomacy that week over who should become the 9th Secretary General of the United Nations.

How these straw polls work

Each of the 15 members of the Security Council will indicate in a secret ballot whether they “encourage,” “discourage,” or have “no opinion” of each of the candidates. As in each of the previous three straw polls the ballots are identical. In other words, it was not known if a “discourage” vote was cast by a country like New Zealand or a  veto-holder like Russia. It is expected that there will be one more of these undifferentiated straw polls on September 26, and that in the first week of October color coded ballots will be introduced to indicate the preferences of the veto wielding members.

In 2005, Ban Ki Moon emerged as the Security Council’s consensus candidate after four rounds of voting, when it became clear that he had no opposition from any of the permanent veto wielding members. (On the other hand, a single “discourage” vote  from a veto holder may not necessarily doom a candidacy. It took Kofi Annan several rounds of color coded ballots to overcome a veto threat, understood to be from France. When their objections were lifted, he became the consensus candidate.)

Previous Results

Here were the results from the first two previous straw polls,  compiled by The Security Council Report 

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And the third poll, held August 26, courtesy of Sherwin Bryce-Pease of the South African Broadcasting Corporation

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A key question going into this vote is whether high profile candidates like New Zealand’s Helen Clark, former top UN climate diplomat Christiana Figueres, and UNESCO chief Irina Bokova can reduce the number of  “discourage” votes they have received. As of now, it looks as if their candidacies are doomed. A second key question going into this vote is whether top performing candidates Antonio Guterres of Portugal and Miroslav Lajcak can continue to receive relatively few “discourage” votes.

The meeting occurs at 10 am EST and the results should be leaked to the media shortly thereafter. I will update the post with the results.

UPDATE: 4th Straw Poll results.

As you can see, the results are largely similar to the previous straw poll, with Antonio Guterres holding onto the lead and Miroslav Lajcak coming in second. At this point it’s fair to speculate that if one of the “discourage” votes against Guterres comes from a veto-holder, it’s that veto holders level of obduracy that will determine whether or not he will become the next UN Secretary General.

Graphic courtesy of @WFUNA 

Credit: World Federation of the United Nations Associations
Credit: World Federation of the United Nations Associations