In Depth

Who will replace Ban Ki-moon as next United Nations chief?

Bulgarians Irina Bokova and Kristalina Georgieva lead the race to become secretary general

The starting gun is being fired today in the race to become the next secretary general of the United Nations.

For the first time, member states will get a chance to question the applicants in what the UN describes as "a job interview in front of the whole world".

There are currently eight candidates vying to replace Ban Ki-moon, whose five-year tenure will finish at the end of the year.

Who are the favourites?

Under an informal regional rotation system, the next UN chief is widely expected to be from Eastern Europe. There is also growing pressure for a woman to be appointed to the top job for the first time.

As such, two favourites have emerged, both hailing from Bulgaria.

Kristalina Georgieva is a former vice president of the World Bank and is currently vice president of the European Commission. However, some predict her appointment could be blocked by Russia.

"Moscow won't accept her because she has led the central mechanism that imposed EU sanctions on Russia," says Forbes.

Her main rival is Irina Bokova, who has been director general of Unesco since 2009.

She has made fighting for gender equality in education her personal mission and is a leading champion in the battle against racism and anti-Semitism.

Who else is standing?

Four men and two other women have officially thrown their hats in the ring, according to the Financial Times.

They are: former Moldovan foreign minister Natalia Gherman; former New Zealand prime minster Helen Clark, now head of the UN Development Programme; former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pucic; Montenegro's foreign minister Igor Luksic; former Slovenian president Danilo Turk, and Portugal's former prime minister Antonio Guterres.

How will the selection process work?

Following a push for greater transparency within the organisation, the selection process will no longer be held behind closed doors.

Each candidate will be presented to the UN's general assembly and then quizzed by representatives of each member state and the press. The public is also invited to submit questions via social media.

"This is a potentially game-changing process, "says Mogens Lykketoft, the president of the general assembly.

The next round of presentations will begin in June, with the Security Council beginning deliberations in July.

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