Au revoir, Kofi Annan. Your term as United Nations secretary-general may run through this year, but you’re as good as gone. You’ve starred in your last New Yorker profile, weathered your last shameful scandal (knock on wood!), and tut-tutted over your last genocide (knock again!).
So, who’s next? The field is already shaking down: earlier this week, for example, the UN Security Council held its first sec-gen straw poll. Here are some top contenders for the job, along with their current odds (for entertainment purposes only, natch).
Ban Ki-moon: South Korean foreign-affairs minister and straw-poll winner, this guy’s a Harvard man (MPA ’85). Hefty résumé also includes stints in the UN and the South Korean government, as well as significant anti-nuclear-proliferation experience. Nifty rapport with Condoleezza “Condi” Rice a plus. Odds: 2-1.
Shashi Tharoor: Indian who heads UN’s Department of Public Information, but also finds time to write fiction (e.g., The Great Indian Novel, a zany post-colonialist romp), churn out a newspaper column (for the Hindu), and tend to his fantastic sideburns. Finished second in straw poll. Liabilities: election could piss off Pakistan; US pushing for a non–UN insider; degree merely from Tufts. Odds: 4-1.
Surakiart Sathirathai: Thai deputy PM has degrees from Harvard and Tufts! China reportedly backs his candidacy, which would be a major asset. Only candidate who’s spent time in a Buddhist monastery. Finished third in straw poll. Odds: 6-1.
Jayantha Dhanapala: Fourth-place straw-poll finish for Sri Lankan diplomat not as good as it sounds, because Dhanapala received more negative votes (“discouragements”) than positive ones. Envisions using Tony Blair as a roving ambassador in Bill Clinton mode once he leaves Downing Street; boasts close (professional) encounters with Michael Douglas and Angelina Jolie. Odds: 7-1.
Vaira Vike-Freiberga: Latvian president resembles better-looking Margaret Thatcher, staunchly supports US war in Iraq, and is tight with Bush administration. Not too friendly with Russia, which has permanent Security Council membership and could veto her election; also, it’s supposed to be Asia’s turn to fill the post. Name is fun to say — à la Boutros Boutros-Ghali — and “Iron Lady” nickname is totally badass. Fun fact: trained psychologist and professor emerita at University of Montreal. Odds: 15-1.