Controversy dogs António Guterres’ path to UN’s top job

After winning four ballots in the complicated ‘race’ to choose the next secretary general of the United Nations, former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres was looking a dead cert – at least until an unholy row that has suddenly ignited between Russia and Germany.

According to reports, Berlin is accusing Moscow of “falsely claiming” that German chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to put pressure on Bulgaria to pick a new candidate for the job.

The reason, apparently, is that Berlin feels the current candidate – UNESCO director general Irina Bokova – is too pro-Russian.

Merkel is said to favour European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva.

But what the row exposes is the fact that Berlin has not endorsed any candidate for the time being – and that does not reflect well on Guterres.

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, explains that there are 10 candidates currently in the running to succeed Ban Ki-moon – Guterres in first place, and Bokova “only in fifth position”.

The inference is that if Bokova is substituted by Georgieva, the latter might suddenly find her name zooming to the top of the list.

Whatever the case, Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto-wielding powers, so the “dynamics of the race could change at the next round of voting on October 4”, warns DW.

Here, Diário de Notícias concedes Georgieva could be “a surprise rival for Guterres”. “Specialist in UN affairs” Mónica Ferro adds that if this happens it could “put everything at risk” and destroy the image of a selection process that is meant to be “competitive, transparent and responsible”.

DN further muddies the waters by suggesting former EC president Durão Barroso (in hot water himself – click here) suggested Georgieva at a meeting of the Bilderberg group in June.

[email protected]