United Nations: Portugal's former premier Antonio Guterres has emerged as a clear front-runner to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, maintaining his lead in the third straw poll held, as hopes of a woman being elected to the top post were fading.
Guterres garnered 11 encourage, three discourage and one no opinion ballot when the 15-nation Security Council held the third round of straw polls on Monday.
These straw polls continue until there is a majority candidate without a single veto from a permanent member of the Council. That name is then officially transferred to the Assembly, whose membership historically chooses the candidate.
Guterres, who had served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, had emerged as the front-runner in the previous two rounds of informal voting as well.
The largest change has been Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcák moving from the 10th position to second with 9 encourage votes, five discourage and one no opinion.
In joint third place is former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and Director-General of UN's cultural organisation UNESCO Irina Bokova, both getting seven encourage votes, five discourage and three no opinion.
Apart from the increased call from UN member states to make the election process of the world's top diplomat more transparent, there is a growing chorus for a woman to be elected for the top job.
The UN has been headed by a male Secretary-General in all of its 70-year history.
However, hopes of a woman being elected are fading since no female candidate has emerged as the front-runner.
UN General Assembly President, who has pushed for making the UNSG selection process transparent, underscored in a statement, that the "informal nature" of the straw polls and stressed that "the absence of any further details beyond the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place adds little value and does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency."
Current Secretary-General Ban is the eighth occupant of the top post in the organisation's 70-year history.
He took office in January 2007 and will be ending his 10-year tenure on 31 December, 2016.
Under the UN Charter, the organisation's top official is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Council.
The remaining candidates have all dropped from their positions in the previous straw polls.
Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra dropped from the 3rd spot to 5th, followed by former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim, and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Programme.
The last three positions in the ranking of 10 have former Slovenian President Danilo Turk, Moldova's former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.