Issue 140 - May 13 - Fourteen Candidates for HRC Unchallenged in Elections Today, Libya Receives Fewest Votes

New York, May 13, 2010 - The UN General Assembly this morning elected 14 members of the Human Rights Council for the term 2010-2013. In one round of voting, States elected the declared candidates, all of which were uncontested in their regions. This was the first time since the Council's founding that all five UN regions presented non-competitive "clean slates" of the same number of candidates as seats available.

Only one GA member wrote in the name of a non-candidate instead of a declared candidate. Peru received one vote in the Latin America and Caribbean election.

The countries elected were: Angola (re-elected), Ecuador, Guatemala, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Moldova, Poland, Qatar (re-elected), Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and Uganda.

The highest-scoring candidate was the Maldives, with 185 votes. The lowest-scoring were the four African candidates. Libya received the fewest votes (155), followed by Uganda (164), Mauritius (167), and Angola (170).

In the view of the UNelections Campaign, today's elections failed to reflect consideration of the suitability of candidates for the human rights body. By not exercising the right to reject unqualified candidates, GA members may have sent a disconcerting message, that qualifications matter little in elections to key UN bodies, and even countries with poor human rights records have a chance of being elected to the Human Rights Council.

In addition, each regional grouping bears responsibility for accepting and/or negotiating clean slates. All regions should encourage competitive elections for this important body.

The UN's report of the proceedings released today was notable for its misleading portrayal of the elections as competitive: "Four countries contested the positions distributed to Asian States, with Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar and Thailand winning the most votes to join the panel."

Proceedings

In the GA hall today, pamphlets and flyers about the candidate countries had been placed on delegation's desks, which also held small bags of with gold-foiled chocolates, presumably gifts from one of the candidate countries. Once the elections begin, campaigning must stop in the hall, campaign materials cannot be distributed, and delegates must stay seated.

The election takes place by secret ballot, and support from a majority of Member States (97 out of 192) is required for election.

The voluntary pledges and commitments (called for in the founding Resolution of the HRC, A/60/251, OP 8) of all candidate countries except for Uganda and Qatar were issued as official GA documents and posted here.

The election ballots distributed to Member States contain blank lines - the same number of lines as seats available for that region. Delegations must write out the name of each State it wishes to vote for. The entering of a non-eligible state, a current Council member, or a country from outside the respective region are not counted, but they do not invalidate the ballot as a whole.

Results

Out of 192 Member States, 188 States participated in the elections.

The newly elected and re-elected members of the Council who will take their seats on June 19, 2010 and serve until June 18, 2013, are:

Region

Official Candidates

Elected

(with number of votes)

Comments

Africa

 

 

Seeking renewal:

Angola

 

Other:

Mauritania

Uganda

Libya

Re-elected:

Angola (170)

 

Newly elected:

Mauritania (167)

Uganda (164)

Libya (155)

 

Five States abstained from voting.

Asia

 

Seeking renewal:

Qatar

 

Other:

Maldives

Thailand

Malaysia

Re-elected:

Qatar (177)

 

Newly elected:

Maldives (185)

Thailand (182)

Malaysia (179)

 

No States abstained from voting.

Eastern Europe

Moldova

Poland

Newly elected:

Moldova (175)

Poland (171)

 

Eight States abstained from voting.

Latin America and

Caribbean

 

Ecuador

Guatemala

 

Ecuador (180)

Guatemala ( 180)

Three States abstained from voting.

 

Peru received one vote.

Western Europe and Others

 

Spain

Switzerland

 

Newly elected:

Spain (177)

Switzerland (175)

Six States abstained from voting.

Who's on the Council?

Leaving on June 18, 2010

Term Ending 2011

Term Ending 2012

Just elected -  Joining on June 19, 2010 -

Term ends 2013

Bolivia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Egypt

India

Indonesia

Italy

Madagascar Netherlands Nicaragua

Philippines

Slovenia

South Africa

 

Argentina

Bahrain

Brazil

Burkina Faso

Chile

France

Gabon

Ghana

Japan

Pakistan

Slovakia

South Korea

Ukraine

United Kingdom

Zambia

Belgium

Bangladesh

Cameroon

China

Cuba

Djibouti

Hungary

Jordan

Kyrgyzstan

Mauritius

Mexico

Nigeria

Norway

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Senegal

United States

Uruguay

Angola

Ecuador

Guatemala

Libya

Malaysia

Maldives

Mauritania

Moldova

Poland

Qatar

Spain

Switzerland

Thailand

Uganda

Civil Society Efforts

Following successful efforts to prevent the re-election of Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council in 2008 and to of Azerbaijan in 2009, civil society groups were active again this year leading up to the elections.

In addition to having called for Iran's rejection (Iran withdrew its candidacy in April 2010), the groups urged other States to come forward as candidates, called for specific human rights improvements in candidate countries, and lobbied for the rejection of Libya's bid.

For several weeks, an international campaign by the NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council (made up of approximately 50 non-governmental organizations) has called for Member States to avoid casting votes for human rights violators - such as Angola, Libya, and Malaysia. While lacking alternative candidates (because clean slates were presented by all regions), GA members still had the option to withhold their votes and write in the name of a better-qualified state. Even if the written-in candidate does not secure enough votes to win, States have avoided "rewarding" the most repressive States with a high vote count.

Meanwhile, UN Watch and Freedom House rated the qualifications of the 14 candidates for HRC membership, and found that five of the candidates were "unqualified" to serve on the Council - Libya, Angola, Mauritania, Malaysia, and Qatar.

Rated as "questionable" were Moldova, Ecuador, Uganda, and Thailand.

Two civil society initiatives regarding Libya's candidacy were:

  • UN Watch and Freedom House's call for States to reject Libya's candidature and defeat it in today's election, and
  • The NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council's letters to governments, noting that Libya does not currently meet the standards for HRC membership and urging States to base their votes on specific improvements in Libya's human rights policies.

(NB: In the previous issue of UNelections Monitor, the section describing these initiatives erroneously combined them into one campaign effort; in fact, they are led by separate groups. - Editor)

Libya did get elected, but it received the lowest number of votes out of any country in any region.

Finally, the lack of competition was itself a cause for serious concern for civil society organizations. In the view of Global Memo, "It's refreshing to see respected organizations finally recognizing the importance of such elections and the need for competition rather than polite - and political - consensus. Even as governments attempt to continue non-competitive practices, small steps toward accountability in global leadership elections - such as the requirement that HRC elections are held by secret ballot and that members must receive majority votes of the entire UNGA rather than only their respective regions - opens up real opportunities for improvement."