IT MAY still be early days, but the race for the next UN secretary-general appears set for a close contest between India's Shashi Tharoor and South Korea's Ban Ki-moon.
In a straw poll conducted on Monday among the 15-member Security Council, Ban emerged marginally ahead of Tharoor. Members were asked to check on three boxes -- "encourage", "discourage", "no opinion" -- for each of the four candidates in the fray.
Ban received 12 votes of encouragement to run, one of discouragement and two with no opinion. Tharoor got 10 votes of encouragement, two of discouragement and three with no opinion. Thailand's Surakiart Sathirathai and Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala trailed behind with 7-3-5 and 5-6-4 votes respectively.
Tharoor, in email responses, indicated he was pleased. "Considering I've entered the race just a month ago and am the only candidate who hasn't visited all 15 capitals, I'm gratified to have received such support."
On Ban, Tharoor said: "I have the highest personal regard for Mr Ban but believe I offer a genuine alternative, of a candidate from the South who can articulate a positive vision for a UN of the 21st century."
Over the next two months, the council will handpick a nominee and forward the name to the General Assembly. A successful nominee must receive at least nine votes in the Council and, more importantly, without a veto by a permanent member.