8 Aug 2016

Clark not out for the count - McCully

5:37 am on 8 August 2016

Helen Clark still has the strong backing of the New Zealand government for as long as she chooses to stay in the contest for the next United Nations Secretary-General.

Helen Clark at the United Nations in New York, United States of America.

Helen Clark expressed disappointment after she reportedly dropped to seven place in the latest straw poll. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The former Prime Minister [http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/world/310270/clark-slips-in-poll-for-top-un-job expressed disappointment on Friday after she reportedly dropped to seventh place in the latest straw poll - down from sixth in the first ballot.

Miss Clark said she would be discussing the outcome over coming days - but Foreign Minister Murray McCully said she was not out for the count.

"There's still plenty of water to flow under the bridge, and pretty murky water at that."

He said the process would not come to a conclusion until October, so it could still be many weeks before it was apparent what the five countries with the power of veto intended to do.

"What's tending to happen is that countries that have decided who they would like as their first candidate tend, rather than to vote for their second and third preference to be there, to vote against other good candidates to try to give an advantage to the one they favour.

"Now Helen Clark has, if you like, been seen as one of the top two or three, by many, many of the countries, but if they're deeply wedded to getting another candidate up, they see her as a threat."

Murray McCully

Murray McCully Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Mr McCully said the main factor working against Ms Clark was the strong push from within the UN, for the new secretary-general to come from Eastern Europe.

"We've known from the outset that the majority of the countries on the Security Council favoured the 'rotational process' which would have given Eastern Europe the turn this time round.

"And it [would] be only if there was a deadlock on an Eastern European candidate that others would be considered - and we're in the process of working out whether there is going to be that deadlock at the moment."

In the first polls, Mr McCully said, there was a fair bit of tactical voting and the numbers that have emerged "aren't that flattering" for Helen Clark.

"But it's a fact that we simply won't know whether there's room for a kind of compromise candidate she would be until the process is further developed."

Mr McCully said any decision about staying on in the contest or withdrawing was completely up to Miss Clark, and he and the Prime Minister would continue to campaign strongly on her behalf.

"Both the Prime Minister and I have been working the phones and doing other things you could do to try and promote the CV of your candidate."

Mr McCully said, having talked to Ms Clark a few days before the second ballot, they both agreed there wasn't much more government ministers could do to support her.

"Otherwise we would have done it, to be frank.

"So I think the overly negative result that we've seen is very much the result of a UN process which is pretty brutal, which involves countries which are fiercely defensive of the rotational process and one which sadly doesn't show merit as a primary consideration."