RIGA - Though her chances of becoming the next U.N. secretary-general look increasingly slim, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is pleased with what has been achieved through her candidacy, said her spokeswoman, Aiva Rozenberga. Vike-Freiberga placed third in the past two of four straw polls taken among the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, the only two she participated in.
In the last vote taken on Oct. 2, she suffered two vetoes from permanent members of the council. A veto from any one of the permanent members of the council in an official vote would terminate her chances.
The actual votes of those participating in the straw poll were kept secret. Russia, one of the permanent members, has indicated that it would not support her candidacy. China, another permanent member, has said the next secretary-general should be from Asia. Vike-Freiberga is the only non-Asian among the five final candidates for the position.
The United States and the U.K. have both indicated that citizenship should not be a consideration for the position. The Latvian president is considered a strong ally of the U.S.A., mostly for her support of the Bush administration's war in Iraq.
At the moment, South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon is the favorite for the position, having obtained 14 votes in the last straw poll with no vetoes. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said he was "pleased" with Ban, as did China's ambassador.
Still, the vote is not yet official. Kofi Annan of Ghana was not considered the favorite for the position during the early rounds of voting in 1996, and had to wait for France to reverse its veto before he could become the first black African to serve as U.N. secretary-general. His second and final term will expire in December.
Though the outlook was bleak, Rozenberga said Vike-Freiberga was pleased with the success of her candidacy. "The principles discussed when nominating her caused a positive sensation," said Rozenberga. "Nothing is over yet."
The Latvian president is hoping to become the first woman as well as the first Eastern European to serve as U.N. secretary-general. She is already the first woman to make it to a final vote for the position.
Rozenberga quoted Vike-Freiberga as saying, "[T]he U.N. secretary-general election process also should become transparent, open and democratic, it should not create artificial borders between religions, genders and other features."
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Sept. 28, the Latvian president referred to herself as "a former refugee" and called for serious U.N. reform.
"Too often during the past five years, the United Nations has focused on the letter, not the spirit, of its charter when it needed to protect civilians caught in warfare," she wrote. "The international community's responsibility to protect must not be an empty concept but a genuine obligation, and United Nations peacekeeping mandates must be more robust."
Yet Russia remains a sure obstacle in Vike-Freiberga's ambitious quest for secretary-general.
On Oct. 2, Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, urging him to consider Vike-Freiberga's candidacy. The call, Pabriks told BNS, was friendly.
Though she may not be the favorite within the Security Council, there is another venue, at least, where Vike-Freiberga is faring a little better.
In an online poll on BBC's Web site among the contenders for secretary-general, she placed second, receiving 18.3 percent of the vote.
India's Shashi Tharoor, a novelist and under-secretary-general at the U.N., received 46.1 percent of the votes.