The NAM Primary

In the U.S., presidential hopefuls become their party’s official candidate through a series of caucuses or primaries around the country. Though not exact, a similar process could be said to have accompanied the campaigning for UNSG, with candidates attending intergovernmental summits around the world to gain the support of “voters” (i.e., governments).

This week, the Non-Aligned Movement‘s summit is underway in Cuba, and the 116-member alliance – representing nearly 2/3 of the UN General Assembly – is an attractive forum for UNSG candidates to firm up support. This is not just populist outreach – 1/3 of the Security Council are members of the NAM (Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Tanzania). 

Thai candidate Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai will be in attendance. Surkiart’s campaign is banking on continued support from ASEAN, despite his own Prime Minister’s remarks following participation in the ASEM summit that Surakiart has only a “50/50” chance of being selected. The shift in tone is telling. It could well signal that Surakiart’s campaign did not receive the reaffirmation it was hoping for during the ASEM summit and of the government’s acceptance of Surakiart’s impending defeat.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be attending, in large part, to lobby on behalf of India’s candidate Shashi Tharoor. The Indian government considers the summit “a major opportunity…to mobilise support” for Tharoor, according to officials.

The Jordanian mission noted that Prince Zeid will also attend the summit in Havana. Most observers consider Zeid a strong candidate and a significant challenge to South Korea’s Ban Ki Moon and India’s Shashi Tharoor, the leading candidates based on their straw poll tallies in July. Zeid secured strong backing from Arab foreign ministers last week and could well catch up with the candidates in fast order, particularly if he is able to use the NAM summit to his advantage. One government he is sure to reach out to is China, which will hold observer status at the summit.  

Surprisingly, there is no mention in the media of whether Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala will be participating. He had participated in the alliance’s meeting last May, but that was prior to the July 24th straw poll in which he came in last, actually receiving more “discouragements” than “encouragements.” One would think he would be there to firm up his support.

Update: Mr. Dhanapala will be participating at the NAM summit, assisting the President of Sri Lanka in his capacity as Senior Adviser. According to the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, he will be meeting a cross section of representatives from NAM member states to discuss his campaign for UNSG.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.