Helen Clark's secret weapon in United Nations quest

Helen Clark pitches for the UN's top job.
HELEN KLISSER DURING

Helen Clark pitches for the UN's top job.

OPINION: Anyone who expected Helen Clark to stumble at the first hurdle on the road to her becoming the next United Nations Secretary General forgets her history.

Clark faced a two-hour long grilling by the UN's 193 member states and emerged unscathed.

But she goes into the race with some unique weapons in her formidable arsenal - among them the New Zealand media.

For nine years as prime minister, Clark fronted up to journalists almost daily and was tested and grilled and challenged on every issue you could imagine throwing at her.

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Admittedly we New Zealand journalists are not as feral as our counterparts across the Tasman, whose aggression in pursuit of political blood manages to make even us wince.

But that's not to say either that Clark ever had an easy ride while prime minister. She daily had to deal with questions out of left field and right field. Some that went to to the heart of her character. Some that were deeply personal. And others that tested the limits of her ability to get up to speed on an issue in a ridiculously short amount of time.

As former foreign ministers or similar, none of Clark's rivals for the UN job are quite as accustomed to the heat of public scrutiny.

There was only one moment when Clark let her guard slip, after being asked if she was the "establishment candidate".

I have never been an establishment candidate for anything," Clark bit back.

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But the reality is that the decision over the next Secretary General won't be decided by who ever excels in the Q and A session with the general assembly.

It will be decided by the small but powerful group of permanent members on the security council.

Clark looks likely to have the support of Britain and maybe France  though Clark's lack of French language skills will count against her and not just with the French (she is said to be boning up on the language).

But Russia wants an Eastern European secretary general and favours Irina Bokova, though she will likely be unacceptable to the US.

Other compromise Eastern European candidates could pass muster with the others.  But the failure of Eastern Europe to coalesce around a single candidate is the reason for speculation a candidate the calibre of Clark could slip through the middle.

There is still one potential rival who could yet throw her hat in the ring, however - German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And Merkel ticks all the boxes, including vast experience at  staring down any question.

 

 - Stuff

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