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UN reverts to secrecy for vote on new secretary-general

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– UN chief from eastern Europe? –

Security Council members are facing calls to pick the first woman after eight men in the job, and to give preference to a candidate from eastern Europe, the only region that has yet to be represented in the top post.

However, divisions among Eastern Europeans have meant that no clear frontrunner has emerged from that region.

More candidates from eastern Europe could come forward as a result of the vote. Australia’s former prime minister Kevin Rudd is also expected to throw his hat in the ring.

Ukraine, which will be casting its straw poll as a non-permanent council member, is not committed to backing a candidate from eastern Europe.

“I would say that we are looking overall at the person,” Ukraine’s Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told AFP. “We will not limit our encouragements to eastern European candidates.”

Several rounds of straw polls are expected to be held before the council agrees on a consensus candidate, which is likely to happen in October.

At some stage, the council will introduce colour-coded ballots for the permanent five members, allowing them to cast an effective veto to block any candidate.

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From now on, the selection process becomes more opaque, with some comparing the vote to a Vatican conclave convened to elect the pope.

The transparency and openness is “the UN’s version of populism,” said Hugh Dugan, a former US diplomat now at Seton Hall University’s school of diplomacy.

“I see the gloves coming off. The 15 will meet and it will turn into the five and then turn into the two – Russia and the US.”

Once the council agrees on a nominee, the General Assembly will endorse the choice. The new UN chief will begin work on January 1.

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