In just one day the race for the popular vote for the next Secretary-General of the the United Nations has been swamped by a landslide in favour of Moldovan candidate Natalia Gherman. So how did she attain this dominant position, and can any of the other candidates catch up?
The term of Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General will end in December, and this year, as a result of pressure from the “1 for 7 Billion” campaign, there is a list of candidates and a series of public events at which they present their platforms and answer questions.
To generate public interest in this vital selection process, the newly-forming Coventry Branch of the UK United Nations Association created a web page http://unacov.uk/voteunsg/ where people could find out about the candidates and vote for the one they preferred. Between 14 March until 26 May there had been only 19 votes, and two candidates were slightly ahead, the Bulgarian Irina Bokova and the Moldovan Natalia Gherman.
But when the Branch tweeted this news, the Moldovans began to vote for Gherman in large numbers. Within 24 hours she had received 761 votes, with more still coming in. The other candidates also slightly increased their scores, with New Zealand candidate Helen Clark being a distant second with 9 votes.
However, her outstanding result is in sharp contrast with what the bookmakers are predicting, where punters vote with their cash. According to Paddy Power, Clark is favourite, with Vuk Jeremic of Serbia and Irina Bokova as close seconds.
In a presentation to the UNA Coventry Branch on Wednesday (see this page for some notes) Kseniya Oksamytna pointed out that some people think that Irina Bokova is the Soviet Union’s choice. She is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
When we tweeted news about the vote, the Moldovans decided they had won. His Excellency Vlad Lupan (Permanent Representative of Republic of Moldova to UN) tweeted
— Vlad Lupan (@VladLupan) May 26, 2016
So has Gherman really won the popular vote? Clearly she has support from the Moldovans. They came from many countries and institutions to vote for her. But Moldova is a small country (population under 4 million) and the poorest country in Europe.
But voting will stay open until the UN General Assembly has elected the next Secretary-General, which could be late in the summer. Obviously, if the other candidates (and their governments and diplomats) were able to mobilise their citizens, then they could easily surpass her total, perhaps thereby making their case for election somewhat stronger.
In any case, the race is certainly heating up. For the latest votes, see our results page.