Indian nominee for the post of the next United Nations Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor remained at the second position in the third informal straw poll conducted by the 15-member Security Council but with reduced number of positive votes compared with last two exercises.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon continued to lead the pack of seven candidates but he too lost one positive vote compared with the last straw poll. But it was not clear whether any of those voting against the two candidates on Thursday were veto-wielding permanent members.
In this context, the straw poll scheduled for Monday will be more indicative of the relative positions of the candidates as veto-wielding members will be given ballot of different colour and thus it will be known if and how many vetoes each candidate has attracted.
Shashi Tharoor got eight positive votes with three members voting against and four expressing no opinion. In the last two polls, he had got ten positive votes. Ban's score this time was 13 in favour, one against and one no opinion. Last time, he had 14 in favour and one against.
Diplomats expected all the candidates to wait until Monday's poll to see if they have any veto against them before deciding whether to pull out the race.
If any of the contestants is unable to get clear verdict, diplomats said the five permanent members of the Security Council -- United States, Britain, Russia, France and China -- are likely to hold negotiations among themselves to come up with an agreed candidate.
The latest entry in the race former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani failed to impress, getting only three positive votes with six voting against him and another expressing no opinion.
Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala and Jordanian Prince Zeid al-Hussein along with Ghani were at the bottom -- both managing only three positive votes. While Hussein had six against and six no opinions, Dhanapala had seven against with five expressing no opinion.
The only woman candidate in the field Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia got seven votes in favour and six against with two expressing no opinion. Only five members voted in favour of Thailand's Surakiart Sathirathai with seven opposing him and three expressing no opinion.
A candidate needs a minimum of nine votes with no veto in the 15-member Security Council to be recommended to the 192-member General Assembly, which formally elects the Secretary-General. But under the Charter, the Assembly can vote only on the candidate recommended by the Council.