With less than six months until the date when the successor of Ban Ki-moon will be named, the candidates for the UN`s first have already started their campaigns. The candidate list includes four male and four female competitors, most of whom come from East and Southeast Europe. Bearing in mind the rotational regional representation and the growing pressure within the General Assembly for the election of a female UN Secretary-General, the chances of our region seem to be increasingly promising.
The FNF Project Directors, Daniel Kaddik and Charles du Vinage, reviewed the eight candidates:
Vesna Pusić (Croatia) is the former Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the best candidate from a liberal perspective. In the often restless Balkan societies, dominated by tense elections and the shadow of unresolved past, her nomination is considered as the “voice of prudence”. The Croatian People`s Party (HNS), which formed a coalition with the Social Democrats during the previous legislative term, raised the 63-year old politician as their leader. Since the 1990s, she has been a well-acknowledged friend of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. As a true European politician, Pusić thinks and acts far beyond the existing national borders. The highpoint of her career was the EU accession of the 4,2 million people Adriatic country on 1 July 2013. She was confirmed as the Croatian choice by the newly elected President in September 2015, when most of the other candidates had already started their campaigns.
Viewed by many as the most promising front-runner to succeed Ban-Ki-moon, Irina Bokova (Bulgaria) meets all formal requirements for the role: a female candidate from Eastern Europe, well-placed with a combination of diplomatic service and vast experience within the UN as Head of UNESCO since 2009. Concerns have been growing, however, due to the questionable past and the on-going conflicts around the allegedly best candidate. As a daughter of a former Bulgarian Communist Party`s (BCP) Chief, she belongs to the so called “April Generation”, which includes the children of Communist leaders, who formed the country`s new political elite after the regime change in the early 1990s. Therefore, it is not surprising that after graduating in Moscow, and being a member of the former State Security Services (the Bulgarian equivalent of Statsi), Bokova embarked on a diplomatic service. After the regime change, she was elected MP at the Bulgarian Parliament, from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (ancestor of BCP), and after holding different governmental positions, she was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet of Zhan Videnov (Videnov`s apartment was allegedly used as a meeting point by the former State Security Services before 1989). Before the official candidate announcement, the nomination of the Bulgarian Vice-President of the European Commission, Kristalina Georgieva, was also put on the table. Eventually, it turned out that the socialist-led government from 2014 had already unofficially confirmed the country`s candidate.
Unfortunately, controversies turn up not only in Irina Bokova`s past. The German newspaper “Die Welt” revealed that the current front-runner for the highest diplomatic post embellished on her resume by falsely adding the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. The investigative website “Bivol” (the Bulgarian partner of Wikileaks) disclosed a confidential UNESCO internal oversight report, accusing the Head of the organisation of manipulation of the recruitment procedures and the appointment of protégés with fake qualifications. Additionally, Bokova`s figure was linked to property ownership scandal, which enlightened her financial status. According to the details revealed, she obtained properties in New York, Paris, and London at a total value of as much as 4.5 Mio Euro in the last few years. Most recently, it became clear that half of Bokova`s UN campaign team belonged to the former State Security Services. Supposedly, after Bokova`s election as a UN Secretary-General, most of them will be appointed for Directors within the UN. Yet, most likely, Bokova`s candidature will meet the support of Russia in the Security Council, as she has very well established contacts with President Putin and his Administration. She was among the few high-ranking officials, who attended the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Moscow, despite the international boycott over the country.
As a Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and a former Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova, Natalia Gherman (Moldova) has the merits to run for the highest post within the UN. She graduated from the Kings College in London and possesses good international reputation. Nevertheless, the tense political situation in Moldova, stirred by the massive corruption scandals linked to the government, are gradually worsening Gherman`s chances. In light of Russia`s line of country`s political destabilisation, marked by massive Russian propaganda and support for the self-declared Republic of Transnistria, it is plausible that Russia will most likely use its right of veto against Gherman`s candidacy.
The chances for the former Macedonian Foreign Minister, Srgjan Kerim (Macedonia), are getting slim. Indeed, the economist was President of the UN General Assembly from 2007 to 2008, but afterwards he stepped back from politics.
At the age of 39, Igor Lukšić (Montenegro) is the youngest candidate for the next Secretary-General of the UN. Beginning his political career as a Minister of Finance and being the country`s Prime Minster for two years, Lukšić has been in charge of the country`s foreign affairs since 2012.
Danilo Türk (Slovenia) was a deputy of the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for five years and this qualifies him high in the competition for the post. Between 2007 and 2012, he served as President of the Republic of Slovenia. His candidature enjoys broad support and has been strongly boosted by the current Slovenian government.
Besides the six candidates from South and East Europe, two more nominees are running for Ban Ki-moon`s office. The regional rotation of the office, however, does not leave many chances to any of them. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has been leading the UN Development Programme for seven years, is seen as one of the most suitable for the office. A member of the social-democratic Labour Party, she strongly opposes the on-going privatisation. Last, but not the least, in the list is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, who led the UNHCR for ten years, until 2015. The former Portuguese politician served as the country`s Prime Minister from 1995 to 2002, and as part of the Partido Socialista, he was the driving force against the liberal-conservative Social Democratic Party. As it is a turn for South and East Europe to raise the next UN General-Secretary, and having in mind the growing international pressure for a woman to finally serve as Secretary-General, Guterres’ chances for the post also fell short.
Daniel Kaddik is the Director of the Project Office for Southeast Europe of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, based in Sofia; Charles du Vinage is the Director of the Project Office Western Balkans, placed in Belgrade.