15 JUNE 2012


Photo by UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

An arrangement on regional rotation normally allows for the election of a General Assembly President by consensus. Once a designated region agrees on a candidate, the rest is calendar logistics.

An issue arises when a region is unable to agree on one particular nominee. Most similar cases are tackled through an internal vote among members of the region. Otherwise, it goes to the Assembly for a competitive majority vote. In the case of this year, the required majority was 93 votes to preside over the forthcoming 67th Session.

While the post is mainly ceremonial, it confers a special prestige on the individual and the country. Some, like the outgoing Qatari, pressed incessantly to push their country's policy -- for example -- on Syria.

Since the beginning of 2012, there was a general agreement that the next President would come from Eastern Europe. However, in its changing status, Eastern Europe could not agree on one candidate. While Serbian dynamic Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic expressed interest, Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.N. Dalius Cekuolis indicated a similar ambition. The competition carried with it a wider political alignment, but not necessarily a dogmatic one. Each side could count on votes from the other. Supporters of the Lithuanian candidate had proposed a review after the May Presidential election in Serbia; yet Jeremic came back with a stronger national base.

The vote on Friday, 8 June, reflected a full-fledged competition, with 190 out of 193 U.N. members voting. With 5 ballots invalidated and one observation, Serbia's Jeremic received 99 votes, while Lithuanian's Ambassador got 85. That was the first vote on an Assembly President since 1991, when the Group of Asian states could not agree on one and presented three candidates.

Clearly, Jeremic ran an effective campaign. Although the vote is secret, informed observers indicated that he managed to win a number of Western European votes in addition to a number of the Group of Non-Aligned who still fondly remember the Golden Role of Yugoslavia. Also, the productive efforts of Ambassador Feodor Starcevic in New York could not be overlooked.

Following his election, Mr. Jeremic said his country was a small, developing country that belonged to no military alliance or political union. "It is therefore truly humbling to have received the confidence of so many nations from all over the world to preside over the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations," he said, adding:

"Like most other nations, Serbia had travelled through periods of tragedy and periods of glory. At the end of the 20th century, one of the proud victors over fascism and a founding member of the United Nations had descended into ferocious internal strife. The ensuing devastation and fratricide had left deep wounds in their wake. In the past few years, Serbia had reached out to its neighbours, offering a hand of friendship and reconciliation. The nation also had reached out to all other members of the global community, including those with which it had had bitter disagreements. A painful era had now come to an end. Today, our nation could proudly stand before the world again -- less than two decades after having had been left out of this chamber."

Jeremic said Serbia was a democracy that -- apart from working to ensure its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the well-being of its citizens -- had no ambition other than to advance the common interest of mankind, promising to remain steadfastly committed to the maintenance of international peace and security -- the first stated purpose of the United Nations.