Sept. 6, 2016 – Susana Malcorra’s campaign to become the next UN secretary-general received a boost over the weekend with Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly endorsing the Argentine foreign minister’s bid in a meeting with his Buenos Aires counterpart Mauricio Macri.
Jinping told Macri that Beijing would “support” her candidacy when the pair met on the sidelines of the G20 summit, according to a report in the Argentine daily La Nacion.
Malcorra came in fifth in the recent Security Council straw poll with seven encourage, seven discourage and 1 no opinion.
Malcorra’s bid is still seen as having an outside chance given the high number of discourage votes but with Russia said to be refusing to budge in its opposition to front-runner Antonio Guterres, China may be trying to galvanize support for Ban Ki-moon’s former chief-of-staff.
That she hails from the Global South, one of only two candidates – the other fellow Latin American Christina Figueres – will put her in good stead with China, and indeed with the majority of UN member states.
Malcorra is also seen as the favorite of the United States, who are said to view her as a steady pair of hands. Opposition comes from the UK, who went to war with Argentina in 1982 over the disputed Falkland islands.
Guterres, the former high commissioner for refugees, has seen his number of discourage votes rise to three since the first straw poll on July 21. While widely admired inside the UN for his capable leadership of UNHCR during the biggest refugee crisis in the agency’s history, it looks increasingly likely that Russia will veto the former Portuguese prime minister’s bid.
During his reign as PM, he was a strong advocate of NATO expansion and EU expansion. There has never been a secretary-general from a NATO country with former secretaries-general from Europe, Dag Hammarskjold and Kurt Waldheim, hailing from neutral Sweden and Austria respectively.
The UN’s first secretary-general Norway’s Trygve Lie was appointed prior to the founding of NATO. Lie, in fact, saw both NATO and the Soviet Union’s network of alliances as a threat to the United Nations.
Another straw poll is set for Sept. 9 and none of the ten remaining candidates look like vacating the race, with each calculating that Russia’s apparent unwillingness to support Guterres will see a change of dynamic in the race.
Whether that means mobilizing behind a candidate that has the support of both the US and China, or the late entry of a compromise candidate, is anyone’s guess, but Malcorra’s odds have shortened.
If elected, Malcorra would be the first woman to hold the post of UN secretary-general and the second Latin-American.
Prior to her appointment as chef-de-cabinet to Ban, Malcorra was under-secretary for field operations for UN peacekeeping. She was appointed Argentina’s foreign minister in Nov. 2015.
– Denis Fitzgeald
On Twitter @denisfitz
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