Bokova still in running for UN chief: Bulgaria

Bulgaria on Tuesday said UNESCO chief Irina Bokova was still in the running for the UN`s top job, dismissing rumours the government was switching its support to a different candidate.

AFP| Updated: Sep 13, 2016, 19:50 PM IST

Sofia: Bulgaria on Tuesday said UNESCO chief Irina Bokova was still in the running for the UN`s top job, dismissing rumours the government was switching its support to a different candidate.

Reports had said Bulgaria wanted to replace 64-year-old Bokova with European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva as the country`s candidate to replace Ban Ki-moon as UN secretary-general next year.

The rumours sparked a diplomatic row, with Germany accusing Russia on Monday of falsely claiming that Chancellor Angela Merkel was pressuring Bulgaria to select a different candidate.

But Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said Tuesday that Bokova enjoyed "the full support of the government" ahead of the next informal UN Security Council vote September 26 on the question of the top job.

"But if after the 26th she is not first or second, there will not be the means to pursue this and we will see together what to do," he said in front of reporters.

He denied reports of outside interference in Bulgaria`s choice of candidate, saying his government "will not leave that to be influenced by third-party countries".

Bokova was considered an early front-runner in the race, with the UN under pressure to pick the first woman for the job and give preference to eastern Europe, the only region yet to be represented in the post.

But after four preliminary Security Council votes, former Portuguese premier Antonio Guterres -- who also served as UN refugee chief -- is leading, with Bokova in fifth position.

Her candidacy reportedly faces opposition from Security Council member Britain, and even the support from Bulgarian officials has been publicly unenthusiastic.

Conservative Borissov said frankly on Tuesday that if she had not been proposed as a candidate by the previous socialist government in 2014, he would have "already withdrawn her candidacy".

Ten candidates are running to succeed Ban, and the winner could be announced in October at the earliest.

In a vote on October 4, the five permanent, veto-wielding Security Council members -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- could potentially block any of the candidates, changing the dynamics of the race.