India's candidate for UN secretary-general Shashi Tharoor has said the race to succeed Kofi Annan "could well be all over" if the current front-runner, South Korea's foreign minister, again does well in the next informal poll of the UN Security Council though he insisted that the race was still wide open.
Tharoor, a novelist and senior UN Official, acknowledged on Tuesday that the South Korean, Ban Ki-Moon, was "the man to beat."
The next informal poll is on Thursday, when the 15 Security Council members will vote to either "encourage," "discourage," or give "no opinion" to each of the seven candidates.
Ban led the first two informal polls, the last with 14 votes in favour and only one against. Tharoor placed second in both polls, the second time with 10 favourable votes, three unfavourable and two of no opinion.
"I think it's still very early days in terms of intentions," Tharoor said in an interview, though he added, "If (Ban) consolidates his position in the next ballot, then of course it could well be all over or close to it."
The council was to hold its next "straw poll" on Thursday. The polls are conducted in secret, though some diplomats had wanted the next one to include coloured ballots to indicate whether the candidates get votes for or against from any of the five veto-wielding members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
However, two UN Diplomats said on Tuesday that Britain had balked at that idea during a meeting to discuss how to conduct the next poll. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the meeting were private.