Whether you’ve broken out the popcorn or the whiskey for this election, take note: There’s a bigger contest playing out on the world stage as the U.N. prepares to select Ban Ki-moon’s successor. Rather than the Security Council appointing the next chief through a backroom coronation, this year the 193-member General Assembly will nominate candidates. That’s made things interesting as countries vie for their favorites.
Make no mistake: The position is an important one. A good secretary-general can help focus the globe’s frazzled leaders. In the wake of Ban’s uneven tenure, the world community wouldn’t mind a star. He did pull the big global players together for climate agreements in Paris, but on other issues, he’s hit a wall. After a four-year effort, his humanitarian summit dropped in Istanbul, a poster city for 2016’s big trends of scarier terrorism and crueler despotism. But with the right mix of charisma, conniving, and coddling, a talented secretary-general can shift global debates on worldwide problems.
We don’t have a seat on the Security Council (yet), but we do know who’s leading in the race. Keep your eye on these five contenders:
The Safety: Susana Malcorra
If you like oatmeal, you’ll love Susana Malcorra. The Argentine was the outgoing secretary-general’s chef de cabinet and is considered the prudent, if uninspired, choice.
The Heel: Helen Clark
Critics say bare-knuckle turf warrior Helen Clark puts ambition above aid while overseeing the U.N. Development Program. But many agree it’s time for a female chief, which may work in her favor.
The Cosmopolitan: Irina Bokova
In Cold War-era Bulgaria, Irina Bokova was a born-and-raised communist. Now, the polylingual Francophile is more comfortable running UNESCO or brunching in Monaco than radicalizing the proletariat.
The Ringer: Kristalina Georgieva
Thanks to British stage whispers that the leading Eastern European candidates aren’t up to snuff, European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva has jumped out as a Bulgarian the West can bring to tea.
The Scold: António Guterres
After a janky run as Portuguese prime minister, diehard socialist António Guterres found his groove as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, berating the European Union for balking on mass Muslim migration.