Spec growing on Ramos-Horta

Jose Ramos-Horta’s recent visit to Australia sparked heavy discussion on his possible candidacy. As reported here back in February, the East Timorese Foreign Minister is on the U.S. short list. Ramos-Horta noted that his meetings with U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and other U.S. State Department officials on the possibility have been positive, and that he has been approached by European governments about his candidancy.

Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta

Ramos-Horta has responded to questions about standing for office citing the demands of the office and his political obligations at home. He has also stated that, should he be asked, he would prefer to stand for election to the Presidency of East Timor than be UNSG and that East Timor would favor the ASEAN-endorsed candidate, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. Should he throw his hat in the ring, he would be the fourth Asian to do so, and may soon be joined by others, including Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda.

But, while he may be backed by the U.S. and some European governments, a respected colleague suggests his chances of being accepted as Asia’s candidate is slim. Apparently, he is more widely perceived as an “European” than an “Asian.”

“I know from spending time in Asia in recent months that he is not taken seriously, nor considered an Asian. ASEAN has reservations about him generally — the not-unfamiliar story of a rebel spokesman who cannot translate easily to a government official [or so I'm told]. Timor Leste is also considered to be too insignificant and still too troubled to produce a world leader.”

ASEAN has been reluctant to admit East Timor as a member since the country’s independence, and Ramos-Horta was on the defensive while seeking continued UN police support regarding the recent riots there.

All this suggests either 1) a continued, entrenched inability of the region to come together on political questions, 2) a not-so-pretty prejudice within the Asian community over the candidate’s background, or 3) both.

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