Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres remained the top candidate for the position of UN secretary general after the UN Security Council's second round of secret straw polls, UN diplomats said on Friday.

Guterres, who was on top of the list in the first round of polling last month, received 11 encouraging and two discouraging votes from the 15-member council tasked with selecting the next UN chief. Two countries expressed no opinion on Guterres' candidacy.

Guterres was followed by former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who both got eight encouraging votes, UN diplomats said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the straw polls are supposed to be confidential.

Jeremic was discouraged by four members of the council and Malcorra by six.

Former Slovenian president Danilo Turk and Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, the current director general of UNESCO, each received seven approving votes. Bokova got seven discouraging votes, while Turk received five.

Guterres, who had served as head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees until last December, emerged as one of the expected front-runners in April after setting out his platform at the first-ever open hearing for candidates for the top UN post.

This was the first time in the UN's more than 70-year history that candidates made a public pitch for the position, which had traditionally been decided by the Security Council behind closed doors.

Despite efforts to bring more transparency to the election process this year, the Security Council decided against publicly announcing the outcome of its straw poll, though results were leaked within half an hour on Friday.

After the poll, UN General Assembly president Mogens Lykketoft, who played a major role in opening up the secretary general selection process, expressed dismay over the Security Council's secrecy.

"The lack of transparency is undignified for the UN and for the candidates," Lykketoft said in an open letter to the council.

The Security Council is expected to agree on one candidate by the end of September and send its recommendation to the General Assembly for approval.

Current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has held the post for the past 10 years, is stepping down at the end of the year as his second term comes to an end.

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