Clark eighth in latest round of fight to be next UN Sec Gen — but vows to fight on

Slipping back. 

Helen Clark has placed eighth of 10 candidates in the fourth straw poll of the 15-member of the UN Security Council to decide the next UN Secretary General.

Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres easily topped the rankings, as he did so for the previous three polls.

Ms Clark is going backwards. In the first straw poll, a fortnight ago, she placed sixth of 12 candidates.

In the second and third polls, she placed seventh of the remaining 10 contenders.

The next straw poll in the open-ended process is scheduled for September 26.

Ms Clark says she'll stay in the race.

The Security Council has to agree on a replacement for the incumbent Sec Gen, Ban Ki-moon, before his five-year term expires on December 31.

Aunty Helen too good for them
Conservative blogger David Farrar — who backed Ms Clark's candidacy — tells NBR that the former prime minister has been an effective head of the UN Development Programme. Too effective.

The problem is that the selection of the next Secretary-General is controlled by the "P5" or the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all of whom have veto power over candidates.

All will appreciate Ms Clark’s skills as an effective manager in her role, he says.

“But when it comes to the big job, they want a former foreign minister. They want someone who will do what they say. They don’t want a former prime minister like Helen Clark who could be dangerously independent.”

And countries don’t just want a yes-man (or indeed, yes-woman) but their yes-man. Russia wants someone from Eastern Europe. France has traditionally plumped for a candidate who can speak French.

Time to give it up
Mr Farrar notes that while any government will back a former politician in such a bid, Mr Key has gone all-out:

“This has gone beyond just support. He’s been working the phones, ringing all the P5 members, personally using all his contacts, to try and get her the job. That goes well beyond the call of duty; that is him really, really trying to get her over the line.”

And the blogger says he surprised himself by becoming an enthusiastic backer of Ms Clark’s campaign.

But he says it's now time to throw in the towel, and acknowledge there is no realistic possibility of winning the Sec Gen vote.

To continue the fight would only distract from New Zealand's just-assumed presidency of the Security Council (which runs from September 1 to December 31). 

In a poll, 54% of NBR Readers said Ms Clark should battle on.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson on Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.

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