Fijian elected UN General Assembly president

United Nations, June 14 (IANS) Peter Thomson of Fiji has been elected president of the next session of the UN General Assembly, which will choose the successor to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In a keenly contested election, he polled 94 votes narrowly defeated Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus who got 90. Under the system of regional rotation, it is the Asia-Pacific region’s turn to hold the post and usually one candidate is proposed by the group whose turn it is. This time the lack of a consensus sent election to a ballot by the 193-member General Assembly.

Thomson will oversee the election of the next Secretary General by the General Assembly in a process that will have a measure of transparency for the first time.

If the Security Council reform process does not pass the current session that ends in September, Thomson could play a pivotal role in reviving it under his watch. He has in past criticised the slow pace of Security Council reform and called for greater efforts by UN members to deal with this and other issues.

Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has declared that his country “is strongly supporting” India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

After his election, Thomson told the General Assembly that his priorities will be the promotion of UN Sustainable Development Goals to enhance human welfare and climate change given that his island nation is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels from global warming. “We bring special perspectives on climate change and on oceans issues,” he said. “You can expect me to be vocal on these issues.”

Later at a news conference, he pledged to bring more transparency to his own office in the wake of corruption allegations against a former Assembly President, John Ashe, who held the position during 2013-14. Ashe, who was the permanent representative of Antigua and Barbuda, has been accused by US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara of taking over $1 million dollars in bribes from a Chinese real estate developer operating in Macau.

Thomson has a wide range of international leadership experience. He was the vice president of the General Assembly in 2010-11. He has also been the chair of the developing nations’ Group of 77 to which India belongs, and the chair of the executive boards of both the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Thomson will be succeeding Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, whose singualar achievement has been making the process of the election of the secretary general more open. He has organised meetings with the ten candidates where members of the UN as well as civil society representatives heard their positions and questioned them.

The candidature of Mavroyiannis was undermined by the fact that Cyprus is member of the European Union, even as it is a part of the Asian Pacific Group, of which Fiji is unambiguously a member.

There were seven invalid votes and one absention.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in)

–IANS

al/tb

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