Vike-Freiberga withdraws from U.N. race

  • 2006-10-11
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - President Vaira Vike-Freiberga gave up her ambitious quest to become the next U.N. secretary-general and officially withdrew her candidacy on Oct. 8. A day later, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon was formally nomitated for the post.

When asked by the British weekly The Observer why she resigned, Vike-Freiberga said it was because of "the apparently immutable diplomatic law that only a man from the right continent may fill the role." The Latvian president was the only woman contending and the only non-Asian.

Vike-Freiberga still maintained, however, that it was high time a woman filled the U.N.'s top position.
"I hope my candidacy will make it easier [for other women candidates]," she said. "Whether it will take another 60 years or 600 years, I have no way of knowing."
The three Baltic states nominated Vike-Freiberga for the position of U.N. secretary-general on Sept. 15.

Most of Europe jumped to support the president, who's enjoyed immense popularity and respect during her tenure, with the exception of Finland's female president Tarja Halonen. In September, Halonen told the Finnish daily Helsinging Sanomat that gender was not the only quality to look for, and that the principle of geographic rotation and experience, among other factors, were just as important.

Yet the Latvian president fared well in the U.N. Security Council's two informal polls, taking third place both times. During the last poll, her candidacy was vetoed by two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, presumably Russia and China.
Vike-Freiberga withdrew her candidacy alongside several other candidates placed near her in the polls.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon received the largest number of votes in all polls, and the U.N. Security Council is expected to propose his candidacy for approval by the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 16.

In light of North Korea's march toward establishing itself as a nuclear power in the region, Washington would rather see someone at the U.N. who could help smooth over the impending crisis with North Korea.
In his article in The Observer, journalist Daniel McLauglin hinted that the U.N. position came down to more than just gender.
McLauglin wrote, "an Asian man who avoids rocking the diplomatic boat was always going to win this particular race against an outspoken East European woman who has put at least one nose out of joint in the Security Council."

However, the U.N. did not discourage Vike-Freiberga from running for the coveted position in the future. The global body wrote, "Perhaps in 2016?" at the end of an official Web site posting about Vike-Freiberga's withdrawal from the race.