Latvian president to run for UN secretary general
1 hour, 32 minutes ago
RIGA (AFP) - Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga
announced that she will run for the post of
United Nations Secretary General, becoming the first
woman and sole European candidate in the race to
replace Kofi Annan.
"Upon the invitation of the governments of Latvia,
Estonia and Lithuania, I wish to announce my candidacy
for the position of Secretary General of the United
Nations," Vike-Freiberga told reporters in Riga
"I have made this decision with full responsibility.
Today, the UN is at a crossroads and faces two
choices: to address the challenges of the 21st century
through the combined efforts of all member states, and
create effective mechanisms for taking action, or to
lose its influence in the international community,"
Vike-Freiberga is the first woman and the sixth
candidate to be nominated as the possible successor to
Annan, whose mandate expires at the end of the year.
She is also the only nominee from Europe, running
against candidates who are predominantly from Asia.
By unwritten convention, the position of secretary
general rotates by geographical region, with the next
incumbent expected to be drawn from Asia.
But the United States and certain Western countries
have said they want the post to go to the best
qualified candidate, regardless of geographic origins.
Vike-Freiberga was named last year by Annan as one of
five envoys on a panel tasked with promoting plans for
sweeping reforms of the United Nations.
Diplomats have said that Washington would back a
candidate from a former communist bloc country in
eastern or central Europe, a region which has never
been represented in what is widely considered the most
influential role in the United Nations.
But militating against her chances of being elected is
the fact that permanent Security Council members China
and Russia are unlikely to back her candidacy.
The UN secretary general is appointed by the General
Assembly on the recommendation of the Security
The five, veto-empowered permanent members of the
Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and
the United States -- are key in deciding who is chosen
for the post.
China has said repeatedly that Annan's replacement
should be Asian, and Russia is believed unlikely to
give its backing to a nominee from a former Soviet
Republic -- and, in particular, to Latvia, which
Moscow has accused of violating the rights of minority
Russians living in the Baltic state.
If Vike-Freiberga were elected, she would become the
first woman secretary general of the United Nations.
"With my formal decision to run for the post of UN
Secretary General, I wish to encourage women all over
the world to continue their efforts to challenge
prejudices and stereotypes. Half of humankind has
never been represented at the helm of the UN. It is
time to change this practice, which fails to reflect
the structure of the world population," Vike-Freiberga
Vike-Freiberga, 68, grew up in French Morocco, after
her family fled the advance of Soviet forces into
Latvia in 1944, acquiring French languages skills for
which she was later praised by French
President Jacques Chirac.
She was an unknown quantity when first elected
president of Latvia in 1999, having spent much of the
Soviet-era in exile in Canada, where she became a
psychology professor at McGill University in Montreal.
She gained prominence during her first four-year term,
working tirelessly to secure Latvia's entry to the EU
and especially to NATO. Latvia joined both the
European bloc and the transatlantic military alliance
A polyglot, fluent in English, French, German and her
native Latvian, Vike-Freiberga will be running against
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, UN Deputy
Secretary General Shashi Tharoor of India, Thai Deputy
Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Jordanian Prince
Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, and Sri Lankan diplomat