Surakiart's UN bid appears to be doomed
The deputy PM gets
7 votes of
3 against and
5 of no opinion
in an informal poll of 15
Security Council nations
Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai has received a setback to his plan to become secretary-general of the United Nations.
His bid to succeed Kofi Annan looks doomed to failure, according to an informal poll
on Monday of the 15 Security Council nations.
Surakiart got seven votes of encouragement, three against and five of no opinion - a major setback for the Thai government, which claimed to have endorsement from more than 130 countries, including China.
According to a Thai diplomatic source, Surakiart was said to be greatly disappointed at the result. He reportedly lashed out at the foreign ministry, accusing it of not doing enough for his campaign.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondha sought to play down the setback yesterday, saying: "Surakiart has learned the outcome of the straw vote and expressed satisfaction with the score. He will intensify the campaign until the final result is announced."
But former Thai Ambassador to the UN, Asda Jayanama, said the government should withdraw Surakiart's bid and permit other Asean members to field candidates, given the poor reaction this week.
Asda said Asean had other qualified candidates, including former Singaporean PM Goh Chok Tong, former Malaysian Deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim and former Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, whose names had surfaced in the regional groupings.
"Based on my personal experience, nearly six years at the UN as ambassador, I truly believe Surin Pitsuwan would have done much better than the existing candidates. But the Thai government is not open-minded enough to nominate an opposition party member," Asda said.
The poll result was also a setback for Asean, whose foreign ministers are gathered in Kuala Lumpur for an annual meeting. They issued a statement late on Monday saying Asean reaffirmed its support for Surakiart and noted that the meeting discussed a campaign strategy for the Thai candidate.
The secret poll only gives a faint indication of how the two top vote-winners - South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and India's Shashi Tharoor, the UN undersecretary-general - might fare when the formal election takes place later this year.
Candidates can come forward until the last minute, and a final vote is not expected until for two to three months. A "no" vote from one of the five veto-wielding permanent members can sink a candidate.
In the informal poll, Ban did the best, with 12 nations encouraging him to run, one discouraging him and two giving no opinion. Tharoor was next, with 10 votes of encouragement, two of discouragement and three giving no opinion.
Most diplomats generally agree that the next secretary-general should come from Asia, as part of a tradition to rotate the top job between the world's different regions. The UN chief can serve two five-year terms.
"It's good to have a good slate of candidates, and it's good to have the best possible slate of candidates," said Britain's Deputy UN Ambassador Karen Pierce. "So we respect all those here on the slate at the moment, and we'd expect to see others."
Other possible candidates include Kemal Dervis, the Turkish chief of the UN development programme, and Jordan's Prince Zeid al-Hussein, who is his country's UN ambassador.
In the past, those who ultimately became secretary-general emerged late in the process or hardly even campaigned for the job. That is partly because candidates become the object of intense diplomatic haggling between the five permanent members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
Annan, chosen in late-1996, was put forward as a last-minute compromise, while the Security Council selected Dag Hammarskjold in 1953 without telling him of his candidacy. Javier Perez de Cuellar was said to be vacationing on a beach in his native Peru when he heard he had been chosen in 1981.
There was no immediate announcement that any candidate had dropped out.
"That's obviously a question for the candidates themselves to decide based on their own assessment of how the vote went," US Ambassador John Bolton said.