Race of the Dark Horses

Jose Ramos-Horta is pointing out that he is not lobbying to succeed SG Annan, but he’s not denying interest in the post should the Security Council come knocking either.

Ramos Horta did not completely rule out becoming a candidate to take over from Annan.

“In politics one should not say never. That’s all I can say,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting between Indonesian and East Timor leaders in Bali.

Another dark-horse gaining visibility is Prince Zeid Raed al-Hussein of Jordan. Mentioned months ago in the earliest coverage of the race, Richard Holbrooke described him as “the deft and elegant young Jordanian ambassador to the UN” in his Feb. 3rd WaPo article and Steve Clemons discusses Zeid in today’s Washington Note (thanks, kp!), noting his quiet but close working relationship with U.S. Ambassador Bolton.

…he has a major ally working quietly (believe it or not) on his behalf: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Bolton is currently the President of the UN Security Council (during the month of February) and is encouraging earlier deliberation on the potential successor to Annan than is traditional. What is traditional is for a name to come out of nowhere at the end of a complicated, opaque international negotiation and be announced practically at the very last moment.

Sources close to Bolton report that he has been meeting quite a number of the leading candidates for the Secretary General position, interviewing them as it were, and according to one source, the candidate who stands out so far among all others — in Bolton’s mind — is Prince Zeid.

Though discussed less frequently that Ban, Surakiart and Dhanapala, Zeid has never been absent from more thorough reports on the race. He has remained on this blog’s “serious speculation” list from the beginning. This quiet presence may serve him well, just as the assertive campaigning by Surakiart appears to be offending traditional sensibilities.

One Response to “Race of the Dark Horses”

  1. jimmy says:

    ASIAN TRIBUNEDate : 2006-02-20
    Outsider might have inside track to lead U.N.Sunil C. Perera – Reporting from Colombo

    Colombo, 20 February, (Asiantribune.com): A leading newspaper in USA – Chicago Times believes that Sri Lankan born EU parliamentarian Niramjan Deva Adithya will seek USA’s assistance to obtain nominations for post of the UN Secretary General.

    John O’Sullivan, a senior reporter of Chicago Times said that Kofi Annan recently entered his final year as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Annan is generally regarded as a man with good intentions. But his time at Turtle Bay in New York has been disappointing both for the world body and for its member-states.Today, however, the United States is not alone in thinking the candidate cannot come from an organization that failed to detect the vast ”Oil for Food” scandal.

    If so, then among the candidates Kemal Dervis, a former Turkish finance minister would be ruled out, who was recently appointed to head the U.N. Development Program, and the Indian novelist, Shashi Tharoor, who heads the U.N.’s public relations bureaucracy. Both would be strong candidates in other circumstances — Tharoor in particular has the eloquence to make the U.N. a real force in world affairs again — but this is simply not their year.

    That leaves two remaining major candidates from Asia: a senior diplomat from Sri Lanka, Jayantha Dhanapala, and the deputy prime minister of Thailand, Surakiart Sathirathai. Both have support from Asian countries — 10 member-states of the ASEAN grouping declared for Surakiart recently. But neither looks very strong as a candidate:

    Dhanapala, in addition to being a U.N. insider like Tharoor and Dervis, would be 68 years old on taking up his post, and Surakiart has been damaged by stories in his country’s press that a former Thai ambassador to Washington warned that he was a weak candidate whose candidacy would damage Thailand.

    Given that neither of the front-runners is exactly a sure thing, the possibility of an outsider emerging ahead of the favorites is real. One outsider who might do so is Nirj Deva (full name, Niranjan Deva-Aditya), who is the first person in history to have been born in Asia and to have been elected to a Parliament in another continent (United Kingdom), and to have then been elected to a multinational parliament (the European Parliament).

    He has the advantage of being a Sri Lankan citizen without being a U.N. insider. He has quietly assembled international support in several continents on the premise that if their ”favorite son” candidates falter, they will transfer to him. And — full disclosure — I have known Nirj as an effective parliamentarian (and friend) for about 20 years.

    Nirj will not be supported by Sri Lanka as long as Dhanapala is still in the race, but he would likely pick up that support if his countryman were to withdraw. Meanwhile, under the rules a candidate does not have to be nominated by his own country — Annan was not nominated by Ghana (which supported him subsequently).

    Nirj will be visiting the United States and other countries soon. He bears watching. The Asian requirement rules out some attractive candidates such as Alexander Kwasniewski, the retiring Polish president, and Vaira Vike Freiberga, Latvia’s former head of state. Kwasniewski in particular would have been popular with the United States and the European Union because the former youth communist leader had intervened decisively in the 2004 in the Ukraine crisis to prevent Russia’s man stealing the election.

    For that very reason, however, Russia is against his candidacy (and also Vike-Freiberga’s). And with two strikes against him, even the eligible Kwasniewski is likely to miss out.

    If it has to be an Asian, then, what considerations will determine which one? Well, it cannot be someone strongly opposed by one of the permanent five members of the Security Council (The United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China) or, in this instance, a major Asian power. That probably dooms the South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-Moon, because China is believed to oppose him. But it leaves a very strong list of contenders still in the field.

    Some will fall at the next fence: Are they part of the large U.N. bureaucracy? Until recently, being part of the large overlapping world of U.N. agencies and NGOs would have been a strong advantage since a successful candidate would already know the system he needed to control. Annan was himself a senior U.N. official running the U.N.’s peace-keeping division when he was elected.

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