The UN General Assembly on Wednesday will elect five new members of the Security Council for 2021 and 2022, with battles underway for the Western and African seats.
Kenya and Djibouti are facing off for one seat, while in the Western bloc, three nations — Canada, Ireland and Norway — are vying for two seats among them.
In the Asia-Pacific, India — which has been trying unsuccessfully to win a permanent seat in an expanded Security Council — is assured of a seat as it is running unopposed, as is Mexico in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
But Africa failed to continue its tradition of deciding candidates among themselves, setting the stage for a showdown on Wednesday.
Kenya boasts of enjoying the support of the African Union, but Djibouti says it should have the seat due to Nairobi’s past participation on the Security Council and the principle of rotation.
French-speaking Djibouti and English-speaking Kenya are both highlighting their roles in seeking peace on the Horn of Africa, as well as their contributions to UN peacekeeping options.
Kenya has pointed to its welcome to refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, as well as to its support to the two countries’ fragile governments.
Djibouti, in turn, notes its strategic location and unusual role as a defense base for diverse countries — France, the United States, China and Japan — as well as its contributions in Somalia.
For Europe, the competition is more customary.
Canada is still stung by a defeat in 2010 during its last bid for the Security Council, when the General Assembly chose Portugal instead.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invested heavily in the latest Security Council effort, with a defeat potentially causing him political embarrassment at home.
– Celine Dion vs Bono –U2 frontman Bono visits the United Nations in 2008
Hoping to woo delegates, both Canada and Ireland have brought out superstar power. Celine Dion sang in New York City to promote Canada at the United Nations, while U2 also performed a concert in the Big Apple for Ireland.
“Campaigning for a UNSC seat involves endless lobbying, entertaining and worrying that the ambassador who just promised you a vote is a liar,” tweeted Richard Gowan, an expert on the world body at the International Crisis Group.
Fearing fraud or manipulation, the General Assembly will not vote electronically, even though the United Nations is mostly operating virtually until the end of July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, each of the 193 delegations will have a chance to cast a secret ballot at a designated time scattered throughout the day in the famous Assembly Hall.
Each new Security Council member needs to win two-thirds of the votes cast — meaning 128 votes if all 193 nations vote. Delegates could have to vote multiple times to certify a winner.
The Security Council has 10 non-permanent members in addition to the veto-wielding Big Five — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The General Assembly will also elect Wednesday its president for the 2020-21 session.
Only one candidate is running, Turkish diplomat Volkan Boz kir. But Armenia, Cyprus and Greece — all of which have historically tense relations with Turkey — have opposed him, meaning he cannot be elected by consensus and nations will have to cast votes.