Former prime minister of Portugal poised to become U.N. secretary general

By Carol Morello — October 5, 2016

The Washington Post

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday endorsed Portugal’s António Guterres, a former prime minister and former head of the U.N. refu­gee agency, to be the world body’s next secretary general.

The full 193-member General Assembly is scheduled to vote Thursday on the Security Council’s recommendation that Guterres succeed South Korean Ban Ki-moon when he steps down at the end of the year after two five-year terms. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who is the council president for the month of October, said he hoped Guterres would win by acclamation.

All five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers, including the United States, were among the 13 members voting to “encourage” Guterres — in effect a vote of support. There were two “no opinion” votes, and no nation voted to “discourage” him.

The victory of Guterres, once head of Portugal’s center-left Socialist Party, came after five straw polls taken this year among General Assembly members. Guterres — who is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese and often described as a consummate diplomat — came out on top every time.

His selection was still something of a surprise. Many observers expected Russia, which had stated its preference for an Eastern European, to veto the selection of a new secretary general from a NATO country. There also had been pressure to choose a woman.

“Syria will be his number one challenge,” said Michael Doyle, a former U.N. assistant secretary general under Kofi Annan and now director of Columbia University’s Global Policy Initiative. “This will be a job that won’t be short of things to be done. He is walking into the storm. But he’s a person who likes challenges.”

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