Image: South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon
Seth Wenig  /  AP
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has emerged as the front-runner to replace Kofi Annan as U.N. Secretary General after receiving 13 votes in favor, one against and one of no opinion during a recent informal poll of U.N. officials.
updated 9/28/2006 8:03:33 PM ET 2006-09-29T00:03:33

South Korea’s foreign minister kept his spot as the clear favorite in the race to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an informal poll Thursday, the only one among the seven candidates to get the needed majority of votes.

Ban Ki-Moon received 13 votes in favor, one against and one of no opinion, China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said. He slipped slightly from the previous poll, held Sept. 14, when he received 14 votes in favor and one against.

Despite that dominating lead, the secrecy of the ballot meant it was not known whether he got the necessary approval of all five veto-wielding members of the council, and the ballot is difficult to interpret. The results could either give Ban the momentum he needs to win or clear the field for more people to enter the race.

The 15 council nations checked one of three boxes for each candidate: “Encourage,” “discourage,” and “no opinion.” Secretary-General Kofi Annan steps down on Dec. 31, when his second five-year term expires.

Winning supporters
Bangladesh’s U.N. Ambassador Iftekhar Chowdhury said he attended a speech Ban gave on Wednesday and approved.

“He came out quite good — mature, balanced, and with the right amount of experience, gravitas, the qualities that you seek in a secretary-general,” Chowdhury said. “We think he’ll make an excellent secretary-general, of course.”

None of other six candidates to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan even got the necessary nine favorable votes to make their campaigns viable.

As with the previous two polls, Shashi Tharoor, the Indian U.N. undersecretary-general, was second, with eight in favor, three against and four undecided. Latvia’s President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was third with seven in favor, six against and two undecided.

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who was the first to announce his candidacy last year, received five favorable votes and seven against, worse than last time and likely the result of a coup back home.

The other three candidates — former U.N. disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala, Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein and former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani — received only three votes in favor.

In the next straw poll, set for Monday, the five veto-wielding members of the council will use different colored ballots than the other 10. A veto from one of the five — Britain, China, France, Russia or the United States — could doom their campaigns.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he would have preferred the colored ballots Thursday.

“We should have had a differentiated ballot today,” Bolton said in a statement. “I look forward to a real vote on Monday, when we’ll have two different colored ballots.

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