19 July 2007

So, what's up with the Commonwealth SG race?

The election of McKinnon's successor is due in November during the Commonwealth summit in Kampala, Uganda.

As in the last year's contest for the UNSG post, Asia again demands its turn for "Sec-Gen" - contrary to McKinnon's statement that his successor need not be Asian:

"There is an assumption that it could be an Asian candidate because Asia has not had a secretary-general,'' he told The Associated Press. "The message will be, sure put up an Asian candidate ... but Commonwealth leaders would want to ensure that he or she is a credible and good candidate,'' he said.

As if responding to him, the news portal malaysiakini.com (see here and here) is laconic and firm about the credits of Malaysian candidate, Culture, Arts and Heritage minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim:

  • A very good candidate;
  • Interact with world leaders;
  • Former foreign minister;
  • Asia's turn to hold post
Looks like Malaysia is progressing in lobbying activities; so far, Rais Yatim's candidature was already endorsed by Brunei and Singapore. The election campaign fortunately coincides with two others - A Day in the Life of Malaysia dedicated to Malaysia's 50th anniversary and Our Vision For The Nation with the backing of 38 corporations including Maybank ($100,000 donation) and Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Rais Yatim is facing a rather heavy-weight rival, India's current ambassador to UK and former representative to the UN and UNSG's envoy to East Timor Kamalesh Sharma. Apparently, Sharma was among the short-listed candidates for the foreign minister's portfolio. Sharma is said to be close to Sonia Gandhi’s family and to have an advance support from the British government.

There was a word that before the final decision on Sharma, as India's choice the candidatures of prime-minister's envoy Shyam Saran and - who else?! - Shashi Tharoor (now chairman of Dubai-based Afras Venture) were under consideration. If the latter went again anyway to the races, I highly doubt that the UK's support - with Shashi's friend at high position in the cabinet - would so easily go to the actual nominee.

Oddly enough, another official candidate for the Commonwealth SG post is also an Indian. And also claims to have obtained the Brits' endorsement (most probably, because he's "a very popular British non-resident Indian"). However, Mohan Kaul is not contesting on India's behalf, but rather as an ex officio DG of the Commonwealth Business Council.

Finally, we have the only non-Asian contester, Malta's foreign minister Michael Frendo. Can't say much neither about him, nor about his country's ambitions on top international posts; might just mention De Marco as PGA-45 or Zammit Cutajar as former ASG and chief of the Climate Change Convention.

Well-placed sources indicate the probability of having additional nominees, including the recently retired Bangladesh's UN permanent representative, "architect" of the WTO's shared DG-ship,
Iftekhar Chowdhury.

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