The International Atomic Energy Agency failed to agree on a new chief on Friday, with Japanese frontrunner Yukiya Amano falling one vote short of the required two-thirds majority.
He consistently outpolled South Africa’s Abdul Samad Minty in five rounds of voting by the nuclear watchdog’s board of governors. But neither was seen as broad-based enough to replace Mohamed ElBaradei, who steps down in November after 12 years.
Following is a rundown of issues in the vote and what happens next.
What’s the post at stake?
The IAEA Director General oversees a global inspectorate that seeks to detect and deter covert diversions of nuclear energy to bomb-making and to promote peaceful uses of the atom, both in keeping with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He authors technical but politically charged reports on IAEA investigations into alleged proliferation activity. Iran and Syria are under scrutiny at present. North Korea, Libya and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were subject to earlier investigations.
ElBaradei, 66, cut a high political profile in the post by urging big powers to engage rather than isolate or, in the case of hawks in the former Bush administration, rattle sabers with Iran. He gave blunt advice based on his contacts with all sides.
The IAEA chief serves a four-year term in office.
What happens now?
With the two original candidates failing to secure victory, board chairman Algeria has to wipe the slate clean and invite fresh nominations to be submitted within four weeks. Another election would be held in May.
The next IAEA head should be chosen by the time of the Board’s regular June meeting. Delegations had wanted to avoid a prolonged, divisive succession battle given the challenges facing the IAEA. But because of the job’s sensitive nuclear security mandate and divisions between member states, there is a strong desire for a consensus candidate.
Who could be waiting in the wings?
There have been no other declared candidates apart from Amano and Minty. Names floated privately have included: Luis Echavarri, Spanish head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s nuclear energy arm; Rogelio Pfirter, Argentinian head of the Hague-based agency enforcing the global chemical weapons ban and an ex-nuclear treaty negotiator; and Milenko Skoknic, Chile’s ambassador to the IAEA and a previous year-long chairman of the governing board.
Other names mooted have included former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, who wrote a recent report on IAEA priorities; Vienna-based nuclear test ban treaty agency chief Tibor Toth; Vilmos Cserveny, head of the IAEA’s external relations office; and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.
Who were the original candidates?
Amano, 61, is Japanese ambassador to the IAEA; Minty, 69, holds the same position for South Africa. They can re-enter the race if they want.
Why didn’t either win?
Few diplomats regarded Amano or Minty as dream candidates, endowed with the ideal mix of inspirational, cross-cultural, nuclear technical and managerial skills needed to transcend natural constituencies and run the complex IAEA well.
The voting betrayed a clear split. Developed states with nuclear power mainly favored Amano and stressed the IAEA’s non-proliferation mandate.
Developing nations tended to back Minty and emphasize the agency’s other mission, to promote the sharing of nuclear technology for energy development. -Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall.