By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Plamen Oresharski, prime minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet seen as in its closing days as the country awaits a date for early parliamentary elections, has nominated Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova – currently in her second term as head of UNESCO – to be the next UN Secretary General, reports on June 12 said.
Bokova’s term as UNESCO head expires in 2017, the same year that the term of the next UN Secretary General begins.
In 2017, it will be the turn of the UN’s Eastern European Group, one of five regional blocs at the UN and which currently includes 23 countries, to have the Secretary General come from one of its countries.
Bokova was the first woman to become head of UNESCO, while since its founding in 1945, the UN has never had a woman Secretary General, nor one from Eastern Europe.
Bokova’s name has been mentioned in UN circles for some years as a potential candidate for the UN chief post.
The UN Secretary General is appointed by the UN General Assembly after being presented with a recommendation of one candidate by the Security Council. By UN practice, the Secretary General may not come from one of the five permanent member states of the Security Council: Russia, the United States, United Kingdom, China and France.
The UN Charter does not specify a term in office for the Secretary General but it has become practice for the Security Council, when recommending a candidate, to specify how long the term should be. In effect, this routinely has been five years, so it is expected that the next Secretary General would serve from 2017 to 2021.
In 2017, Bokova would turn 65 in July.
The offspring of a prominent communist family, Bokova was deputy foreign minister and foreign minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Zhan Videnov government in the 1990s, that fell when the BSP cabinet of the time led Bulgaria to financial and economic catastrophe.
While deputy foreign minister, Bokova was the BSP’s candidate for vice president of Bulgaria in 1996. The BSP ticket lost to the centre-right UDF candidate, Petar Stoyanov.
Bokova went on to become Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and Monaco and its permanent representative to Paris-based UNESCO.
She was elected UNESCO head in October 2009, emerging as the victor after the favourite went down amid allegations of anti-Semitism, and in November 2013 was elected to a second term.
The full field of Bokova’s rivals is not yet known – also considering that the June 12 report of her nomination, by local news agency Focus, has not been confirmed. She is said to have been nominated by Kristian Vigenin, the former MEP who currently is foreign minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet.
Names that already have been reported as candidates coming from the Eastern European group to be the next UN Secretary General are Danilo Türk, the former president of Slovenia and international law professor, who served between 2000 and 2005 as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Ján Kubiš, a Slovak diplomat who served as Secretary General of the OSCE.