Geopolitical struggle and Balkan intrigue mean there is no clear favourite to succeed Ban Ki-moon in the world’s top diplomatic job.
In the ballots so far the hope that a strong field of women contenders would produce the United Nations’ first female secretary general looks to have been rebuffed.
In the latest poll the first three spots were taken by men.
Helen Clark – the former New Zealand prime minister and head of the UN Development Programme – is one of several highly qualified women in the race who did far worse than expected in the polls – but she played down the role of sexism.
‘If you’re asking whether women are being discriminated against – no’ Clark told the Guardian.
‘There are a lot of factors swirling around.
There is east-west – there is north-south – there’s the style of what’s wanted in the job.
Do they want strong leadership?
Do they want malleable?
It’s all cross-cutting and we don’t know what will come in the wash’.