White Votes

Ambassador de La Sablière described to the press yesterday the approach which the Security Council will follow in narrowing the list of candidates for UNSG.

As in previous selections, the use of “white votes” or, in English, “straw votes”, will be used to identify the general level of support various candidates have at this point.

“…the white votes are not eliminatory; they have simply an indicative value. This is why each delegation will be asked to say if it encourages, if it discourages or possibly if it does not wish to express an opinion on a candidate.   

The white votes meet two aims. It is necessary that the candidates can measure the support which they have. The results are communicated to them and they can, possibly, infer some of the consequences; [and] it is necessary to facilitate the formation of an agreement within the Security Council. It is a question of avoiding situations of blocking [of candidates later].” 

It is appropriate to review in this context some of the factors that make this year’s selection unprecedented.

  1. We have an actual “field” of viable candidates, publicly announcing their interest in the position and actively campaigning for it.
  2. The Security Council has formally limited itself to considering candidates formally (i.e. publicly) nominated by governments. While this may not prevent a November surprise entirely, it makes it much less likely.
  3. That the candidates will be formally notified of the straw vote’s results seems to me unprecedented, but perhaps only in context of the previous two points. Despite Ambassador de La Sablière’s emphasis on the non-elimination role of the vote(s), no doubt the candidates will have a more firm sense of their competitors’ support, and react accordingly. 

As noted here last week, all of this will not take place however until later in the month. No official date has been set, and the vote may very well not be announced until after it occurs. A critical look at the candidates’ campaign trips will be telling, and will be the subject of a new initiative on this site in the coming week.

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