Archive for April, 2006

Interest building in Clark?

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

Though her potential candidacy has been more often scoffed or ignored, there may be interest building in New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark.

This week, she received a visit from Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to continue discussions on a possible China-New Zealand free trade agreement. But their discussion may also have included the possibility of her standing for UNSG. 

National foreign affairs spokesman Murray McCully speculated that the visit could have “something to do” with Clark’s alleged intention of seeking the post of United Nations (UN) secretary-general later this year.

Clark and New Zealand’s Defense Minister met privately last January with the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral William Fallon. What was discussed remained private, but no doubt gave U.S. officials a sense of how closely her views on global security issues aligned with theirs.

More candidates coming soon?

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

Contrary to some governments, China has not pushed for Asian countries to rally behind a single Asian candidate. So far, the three announced candidates are Asian, as are several rumored to be interested in the post. Now it appears that even more candidates may emerge.

China's UN Ambassador

[China’s UN Ambassador] Wang, who this month holds the rotating presidency for the U.N. Security Council, told a press conference that informal discussions have been under way by the council and other members since February about a possible pool of candidates to replace U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose second five-year term ends in December.

“I think we are still in the process because I understand that there are serious discussions in the council and also outside of the council and that is why I believe that it takes a few months for this consensus building to take place,” Wang said.

“Part of the reason is that I believe there are a number of candidates announced by a number of Asian countries, but member states believe that in the next few weeks they want to see more names coming from the different countries.”

This announcement likely sends a strong signal that China is not enamoured of Surakiart, Dhanapala or Ban. Regardless, it remains committed to supporting only an Asian national for the job, though Ambassador Wang reportedly did not rule out nationals from Arab nations, included by the UN in the Asian regional group.

Surakiart’s struggling campaign

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Surakiart Sathirathai conducted perhaps the most public campaign for UNSG in the history of the office, bucking almost every tradition associated with the selection. As laudable as the approach, he himself does not seem to have won many converts. Almost everyone I speak with has written off Surakiart’s campaign. A former UN official in Washington described his campaign as “a joke.” A prominent UN correspondent in New York wrote, “I can’t emphasize enough how much opposition is growing in Thailand to Surakiart. The Bangkok papers point out his many flaws, including his lack of multilateral experience.”  Recently, Surakiart has even been pushed to the point of threatening a libel suit against a former ambassador of his own country for dismissing his qualifications for the office.

Despite claims by the campaign to have secured support from 120+ governments, no government outside ASEAN has publicly announced its support, let alone any of the permanent members.

This weekend’s election in Thailand hasn’t helped Surakiart’s campaign. Despite leading his party to victory, Prime Minister Thaksin has announced his resignation. The Thai Parliament will likely meet shortly after the April 23 round of elections to name the next Prime Minister. Surakiart is one of several possible successors to Thaksin, though most bets are currently on other officials.  

Surakiart’s view that the ASEAN endorsement “obliges” him to continue his campaign may be the out they need if his struggling campaign does not turn around soon. If he recognizes this, everyone might be able to “agree” that his more important interest is helping his party’s fix the political mess in Thailand.