Natalia Gherman, Vuk Jeremic, Susana Malcorra, Antonio Guterres, Vesna Pusic - UN.jpg
Candidates for the post of United Nations Secretary-General, Natalia Gherman, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs from Moldova; Vuk Jeremic, President of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development and former Minister of Foreign Affairs from Serbia; Susana Malcorra, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Argentina; Antonio Guterres, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal, and Vesna Pusic, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs from Croatia, attend a Global town hall meeting at United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 12 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, has emerged as the front-runner in the campaign to succeed Ban Ki-moon as the U.N.’s ninth secretary-general, while former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic was the least popular candidate with the discouragement of 11 countries.

In a secretive straw poll, the 15 members of the Security Council voted on Thursday (21 July) with three options: to encourage, discourage or express no opinion on any of the 12 candidates. However, this is only the first step of a procedure.

Antonio Guterres, who served as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, is leading a crowded field of 12 candidates, receiving 12 of a potential 15 votes to succeed Ban Ki-moon. However, this is only the first step of a procedure.

Former Slovenian President Danilo Turk, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremic have also emerged as the frontrunners in a race to replace UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires on 31 December.

The vote was held in council chambers, and no results were officially released.

It's the first such vote in 10 years.

The outcome of the contest for the world’s top U.N. job dealt a blow to the candidacies of other prominent hopefuls.

The contest dealt the harshest blows to the candidates with the least U.N. experience, including Pusic, former Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic and former Moldovan foreign minister Natalia Gherman, who finished at the bottom.

Pusic received the discouragement of 11 countries which should prompt her to drop out of the race, said France Presse.

A second straw poll may be held next week.

The final choice will be made at the General Assembly in September of October.

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