The U.N. General Assembly’s vote for the Asia-Pacific non-permanent seat on the Security Council went down to the wire on October 18, as a second ballot had to be held when none of the contenders, Cambodia, South Korea, and Bhutan, won a clear two-thirds majority.
After the first round of voting, neither South Korea, Cambodia, nor Bhutan had gained the necessary 128 votes from the 193 General Assembly member states to secure a win. A moderator who read out the results said South Korea led with 116 votes, followed by Cambodia with 62 votes, and Bhutan lagging far behind.
He then announced that a second vote, with Cambodia and South Korea as the two sole candidates, would be held and ballot papers were handed round the assembly before a 25-minute break was held to count the second round of votes.
After the votes were tallied, it was announced that Cambodia had won just 43 votes-a decrease of 19 supporters from the initial ballot-and South Korea had won more than the required majority with 149 votes.
Cambodian government officials had been cautious when asked to predict the result of the ballot, despite months of campaigning and the Foreign Affairs Ministry having said, at one stage, that about 100 countries had secretly pledged to support Cambodia’s bid for the important seat.
“At this time I can’t say,” Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said. Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, had admitted that Cambodia faced stiff competition from South Korea.
“We have some very tough competition,” Mr. Siphan said. “I feel that South Korea is challenging…they have a big GDP, big contribution to the U.N.,” he said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had publicly announced the backing of Cuba, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Spain, Belarus, Nigeria, Uruguay, Iran, China, and all nine Asean nations.
Most of the five countries-France, China, Russia, the U.S. and Britain-who hold permanent seats on the Security Council, did not name their preferred candidate ahead of the vote.
While Cambodia had rallied for the seat on the platform of its experiences in conflict resolution and peace building, human rights advocates maintained that domestic rights abuses should mitigate against Cambodia’s presence on the 15-member council.
Of the other four seats, Argentina won the South American and Caribbean seat, Rwanda won the Africa seat, and Australia and Luxemburg took the two seats given to the Western European and Others grouping.