Image: South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon
Seth Wenig  /  AP
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon
updated 10/2/2006 5:53:00 PM ET 2006-10-02T21:53:00

South Korea’s foreign minister cemented his position as the front-runner to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday, the only one of six candidates to escape a veto in an informal U.N. Security Council ballot.

The Security Council scheduled a formal vote to choose the eighth secretary-general in the United Nations’ 60-year history on Oct. 9, making Ban Ki-Moon’s appointment a near certainty. He must then go before the 192-nation General Assembly, which traditionally approves council recommendations without protest.

“It is quite clear that from today’s straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-Moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly,” China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, said.

The 15 council nations checked one of three boxes for each candidate: “Encourage,” “discourage” and “no opinion.” The ballot was secret except that only the five permanent members of the council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — were given blue ballots to show the candidates if they could escape a veto.

According to the results, Ban received 14 votes in favor and a “no opinion” ballot cast by one of the 10 rotating members of the council. Every other candidate received at least one veto.

Soon after the results became known, India’s Shashi Tharoor, the U.N. undersecretary-general for public information, announced he was stepping down.

“It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general,” Tharoor said of Ban.

Tharoor’s perspective on the race is a bad sign. He did far better than anyone other than Ban, receiving 10 votes in favor and three against. One of those negative votes was a veto.

Latvia’s president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, was next with five in favor, six against — including two vetoes — and four undecided votes.

Thailand’s deputy prime minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, who was the first to announce his candidacy last year, and former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani each received four votes in favor. But Ghani had three vetoes against him and Surakiart two.

The other remaining candidate, Jordan’s U.N. ambassador, Prince Zeid al Hussein, had only two votes in favor and eight against, with one veto.

The informal poll is nonbinding and the results could change. During the informal polling in 1996, France consistently vetoed Annan before changing its vote in the face of strong council support for the Ghanaian, who was then head of U.N. peacekeeping.

Nonetheless, diplomats seemed confident that Ban would be the winner.

“That is I think a safe bet now — that it will be Ban Ki-Moon,” said Bangladesh’s U.N. ambassador, Iftekhar Chowdhury.

The council planned to convene on Oct. 9 to hold its formal vote. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said diplomats agreed to the delay so candidates could decide to drop out if they want to.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome here, very pleased,” Bolton said.

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