Coup in Thailand

September 19, 2006

This evening, the Royal Thai military launched a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai government. According to the AP, they have seized Bangkok and all its media stations and formed a government with King Bhumibol as head of state. This is a sad blow for the Thais, and must fatally ruin Surakiart Sathirathai’s chances to assume the post of UNSG.

Update: The Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for National Security have been arrested. There is an excellent blog with details here.

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Ashraf Ghani joins the race

September 17, 2006

FT has the story:

Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan finance minister, is expected to make a late entry into the race to succeed Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations, taking the number of formally declared candidates to seven.

Mr Ghani, 57, will declare his candidacy this afternoon in a meeting with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who is visiting the US.

I hope to win, through ideas,” Mr Ghani told the Financial Times in New York. “In the public debate so far, I have yet to see a clear articulation of vision, an analysis of the central issues and a programme for change.”

We have heard Ghani speak. He has the ideas. He is all management expertise and ideas and little politics. Indeed, FT quotes one of his acquaintences on this point:

“Ashraf wants to reform the whole international aid system and has some fantastic ideas,” said an acquaintance. “But given that he blows up at even his closest friends, I can’t see him as the world’s leading peace-maker.”

As Karzai’s Finance Minister, he did a number of tremendous things, but we wonder if his record is too “neo-liberal”. Indeed, FT quotes Hernando de Soto, a favorite economist of the right:

“The UN would be very lucky indeed to get him,” said Hernando de Soto, economist and founder of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Lima.

US says consensus candidate needed

September 16, 2006

In a press briefing, US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Kristen Silverberg said:

“There is not a consensus Asian candidate right now and I don’t see signs of one emerging, honestly, right now. There are five Asian candidates and they all enjoy some support, so we don’t expect a consensus.

But if there’s an Asian candidate who’s the strongest candidate and meets our criteria, then we are obviously prepared to support that person.”

Silverberg is responsible for vetting UNSG candidates. She also rejected the rotation as necessary. She continued:

The UN isn’t a talk-shop anymore. It’s not just a political organisation in New York. It’s an organisation that has more than 70,000 peacekeepers deployed. It has development and humanitarian programmes all over the world.

So we want somebody who’s going to be a good manager and committed to continued reform of the United Nations. We also want somebody who’s going to share our values – the importance of promoting democracy around the world and a commitment to human rights.

Obviously, this can be seen as boosting the candidacy of Vīķe-Freiberga. However given the Chinese insistence — and the widespread support — of the rotation, this may be instead threatening a veto of Ban. And, again, inviting more candidates into the race.

The Straw Polls have spoken

September 15, 2006

At UNSG.org, Tony Fleming has the results of the straw poll.

We would like to make some observations:

  1. Ban Ki-moon clearly advanced. Unless his “discourage” is from a P5 member, he is the next Secretary General.
  2. Shashi Tharoor has made no progress since the last straw poll. He has moved one member state from “undecided” to “discourage”.
  3. Sathirathai has made real progress, however, he has not caught up with either of the frontrunners.
  4. Dhanapala has lost ground.

The President of the Security Council has made the consequences clear:

For the Sri Lankan it’s not worth it to continue and the others have too many discouragements in order to go ahead. I believe that whoever is coming in now, it’s too late.

He thinks it is over. And he probably thinks that Ban is the winner.

It is time for the candidates to listen to the straw poll. Shashi Tharoor and Sathirathai have a legitimate claim to stay in, although it seems clear from the Greek’s statement that they will not win. But Dhanapala needs to take the advice of the President of the Security Council and remove himself from this competition.

One of the things that has been striking to us throughout this race is the level of national pride and identity associated with the candidates in this race. The South Korean, Indian, and Sri Lankan press, especially, has fallen in love with the candidates. And, to a substantial extent, their publics have also. The low esteem that the Thai government is in with both its public and its media explains Sathirathai’s support.

Unfortunately, this close identification with candidates has resulted in publics’ mood following the fortunes of the candidates. For Dhanapala and the Sri Lankans, this is quite serious. The country is at a very serious point, with the peace process — Dhanapala’s peace process — collapsing. The mood of Sri Lankans that we encounter has been deeply impacted by this.

Furthermore, it is important for the publics to realize that this is not an indictment of their countries. If Shashi Tharoor loses, as it seems he will, this is not an indictment of India. Indeed, the question of whether Singh’s nomination of Tharoor is a blunder will likely be revisited. For the Sri Lankans, they need to understand that Dhanapala’s failings are not their own. They nominated an old man who did not impress people. This is not a statement about Sri Lanka.

Niranjan Deva-Aditya nominated by Fiji

September 6, 2006

From a press release from one of Deva’s aides:

It is announced today, 6th September 2006, that Niranjan Deva-Aditya has become an official candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary-General of the United Nations when he retires at the end of this year. Ambassador Deva-Aditya was nominated by the Republic of Fiji.

It includes excerpts from the letter itself:

I am writing to request you to add the name of Niranjan Deva-Aditya, Ambassador-at-Large of Sri Lanka to your list of Candidates. Ambassador Deva is a unique Candidate – a Sri Lankan citizen with family, roots, and businesses in Sri Lanka – he has become a global personality, making a significant contribution to global politics, aid and development at the multilateral level.

Regarding Dhanapala, a fellow Sri Lankan, Deva says:

Although I am an Asian and a Sri Lankan citizen, I do not seek to be a Sri Lankan nominee, as Sri Lanka fielded an excellent candidate as long ago as December 4th 2004.

Note that Deva claims to have more support and he has recently been to China.

Who else is out there? Annan has been talking about a female successor again.

Immediate consequences:

Dhanapala’s candidacy is even more impossible. To do this, Deva has to have evidence that there has been a collapse of Dhanapala’s support. He already has some support inside his own country.

Three South Asian Candidates. Why? And why have two more candidates entered? What do they know about Ban Ki-moon’s support and Shashi Tharoor’s support that others do not know?

Prince Zeid enters UNSG race

September 5, 2006

Count us surprised. The Associated Press has the most interesting coverage that we have seen. In its coverage, they quote his status as a Muslim candidate:

“We believe there is considerable scope to be given by the Security Council and the General Assembly to a Muslim candidate who is familiar with the UN but not of the UN,” Zeid told The Associated Press.

He said considering a Muslim candidate was especially important in light of recent events, which include the Israeli-Hizbullah conflict, an upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, and Iran’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Note, not much word of “North versus South” here. We still don’t have the announcement and there is nothing on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
What are the implications? Surely the US has expressed dissatisfaction with the field of candidates and support for Zeid in particular. But can a candidate openly supported by the US and royalty go far?

More details soon.

Uganda and Kenya support Shashi

September 4, 2006

The Indian Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs was in Africa recently and claims to have Uganda’s and Kenya’s support for Shashi Tharoor, reports the Indian press:

Two key African countries Uganda and Kenya have expressed their support to India’s claim for permanent membership of UN Security Council and Shashi Tharoor’s candidature for the post of UN Secretary General.

The support was conveyed to Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi during his visit to these countries which concluded yesterday.

Recently, Ravi has committed India’s support for Uganda’s hydro-electrical sector. It appears that he has also asked both of these countries to help get support from other African Union countries.

Note that last week, there was quite a lot of activity involving Ghana.

Tharoor comments on concerns regarding using UN resources in his campaign

September 2, 2006

In response to an allegation made by one of our readers Shashi Tharoor has clarified his use of UN resources in his campaign. We reprint his statement on our blog below:

My attention has been drawn to this comment. I’d like to clarify to anyone who shares these concerns that my attempts to promote my candidacy are on my own time, using my earned leave accumulated over many years, and including no use whatsoever of the UN’s time or resources. I would have much preferred not to have to campaign, but the campaigns of other contenders left me no choice.

I trust my response reaffirms my commitment to transparency.

South Korea drops UNSC bid

August 31, 2006

They announced it Thursday, Xinhua has the details:

“We concluded that, realistically, it would be difficult to win two of the most important elections in the United Nations at the same time,” said a foreign ministry official.

“We informed the UN member states of the decision on Aug. 29,” said the official, adding that South Korea will resume its campaign for membership of the council “as early as possible.”

A sign of confidence in Ban Ki-moon’s candidacy?

What’s up with Ghana?

August 30, 2006

Ban Ki-moon and Surakiart Sathirathai are actively wooing Ghana right now.

A special envoy of the President of South Korea was in Ghana today to deliver a message about the UNSG race:

According to a Ghanaian news agency the content of the message was not disclosed but was believed to be bordering around South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki- Moon’s campaign bid to head the United Nations.

At the same time, Sathirathai was meeting with the VP of Ghana in Bangkok:

He used his one-and-half-hour meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Surakiart Sathirathai in Bangkok to explain why the two developing countries should share expertise in cassava and fish production with emphasis on tuna in Ghana for the economic advantage of the two countries.

What is all the excitement about? Does Ghana want their money?