UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council on Monday held its first secret straw poll on four Asian candidates vying to succeed Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, as UN secretary general.

According to a French news agency, all four candidates to succeed Annan, whose second five-year term expires at the end of the year, are Asian as the consensus here is that it is now Asia’s turn to assume the world body’s top job in line with an unwritten rule of regional rotation.

The candidates are South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and India’s Shashi Tharoor, a UN undersecretary in charge of communications.

The council’s 15 members were presented with three choices in the secret ballot: encourage, discourage, and no opinion.

Ambassadors of the four countries which fielded candidates were informed of the outcome but there was no official announcement on the results.

"The reason we decided not to make the results public was so that the individual candidates could draw their own conclusions," US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told reporters. "We will see if they draw any conclusion one way or the other once they’ve had a chance to consider these results."

Bolton said the ballot was significant in two key respects: One was the fact that it was held so early in the year with the goal of making a final decision at the end of September or early October.

The second was precisely that it may now lead to a decision "either for additional candidates to enter the race or for one or more candidates in the race to drop out based on their own assessment of how the vote went."

France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the council president for July, stressed that there was no differentiation between the votes of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council and those of the 10 non-permanent members.

Both Bolton and de La Sabliere said there was no decision on whether or not to hold another straw poll.

Under UN Charter rules, the secretary general is elected by the 192-member General Assembly under recommendation from the Security Council, whose five permanent members — the United States, China, France, Britain and Russia — have veto power.

In practice, the five permanent members have dominated the secretary general succession process. Bolton meanwhile noted that with all the talk of regional rotation, it was "striking there’s so little talk of gender rotation."

"We’ve had one gender (in charge of the UN for 60 years). Maybe people ought to consider that as well," he added.

Source: Global Order