Bulgaria candidate swap shakes up race for UN top job

The EU budget commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, has entered the race to become the United Nations’ next secretary general, after the Bulgarian government swung its backing behind her.

Bulgaria candidate swap shakes up race for UN top job

World Bulletin / News Desk

Bulgaria on Wednesday switched its candidate to be the next head of the United Nations, shaking up the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon when he steps down on December 31.

Sofia is now throwing its weight behind European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva, dumping UNESCO chief Irina Bokova after she came a lowly sixth in the latest round of informal voting in New York.

"We think it will be a more successful candidacy," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said. 

Borisov said that Bokova, 64, had been given a "final chance" in the most recent vote but was jettisoned after she "fell even further and was overtaken by several other countries and other female candidates".

Bulgaria's switch to Georgieva, a 63-year-old economist, came a day after Borisov spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone.

Veto-wielding Russia wants the next UN chief to come from eastern Europe, the only region yet to be represented in the top post.

Rumours had been swirling for days that Bulgaria would drop its support for Bokova, a Harvard graduate and fluent Russian speaker backed by Moscow.

Georgieva, who is currently the EU's budget commissioner, has long been tipped as a possible contender to be the first woman to lead the United Nations.

She is "a global authority on international and humanitarian affairs, an essential component of the UN's work," the Bulgarian government said in a statement released Wednesday.

Georgieva called the nomination a "huge honour".

Bokova could in principle stay in the race without her country's backing. But observers said this was an unlikely scenario.

Late Tuesday, Bokova had still insisted she would not give up her candidacy.

"If (Bulgaria) presented another candidate at this stage, it would be a serious political error. It would not only weaken my chances, but also those of the other candidate," she told Bulgarian media.

On Wednesday, a tweet on Bokova's Twitter account for her candidacy said she was "fully committed to continue the race".

Under UN rules, member states can put forward candidates at any stage of the selection process, even at the last minute.

 Game changer 

Nine candidates are currently vying to become the next UN chief and the Security Council has already held five straw polls to gauge support for the contenders.

Portugal's former prime minister Antonio Guterres has consistently maintained a lead in each round.

But council members are facing calls to pick the first woman for the top job, after eight men.

The next informal ballot is scheduled for October 5. 

That round could prove yet another game-changer, as the five veto-wielding powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- will be able to block any of the candidates in that vote.

Council members are hoping to agree on a nominee in the coming weeks and present that candidate to the General Assembly for approval.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Eylül 2016, 08:43