Canada’s Trouncing

I was in Buenos Aires this past week at a conference/board meeting for groups in which I’m involved, but nonetheless tried to keep an eye on relevant events. The most important of these was, of course, the Security Council elections.

Portugal’s trouncing of Canada was a surprise. I posted once while away – on Portugal’s support for Canada in hopes of dividing support for leading candidate Germany enough for the Portugal and Canada to take the two seats. Even before this, however, I honestly thought that, despite Harper’s policies, Canada would squeak by.  The very first ballot made it clear that that wasn’t the case.

And it got worse on the second ballot.

Before a third ballot was completed, the government withdrew its candidacy.

But even then it wasn’t over. The withdrawal should have allowed governments the opportunity to symbolically respect Canada’s historically strong contributions to UN peacekeeping and the maintenance of international peace and security overall. The government has served on the Council for at least one biennium every decade since becoming a member of the UN. Canada currently serves on the Peacebuilding Commission as one of the top ten financial contributors to such operations and has a strong record in terms of boots on the ground. It should have taken many ballots before Canada was denied the seat. But that show of even symbolic support didn’t happen.

Portugal was only 15 shy of the necessary 2/3 majority on the second ballot. Only 15 of the 78 who voted for Canada were needed to shift their support to Portugal to allow it a victory, leaving Canada with 63 symbolic votes. But over half of Canada’s initial supporters, 46 governments, withdrew their support. And of those, only 37 bothered to shift their support to Portugal. Nine just walked away from Canada.

This degree of shift, especially when it wasn’t necessary, shows just how concerned many countries are with Harper’s policies in recent years. Whether it will cause any changes back home waits to be seen. Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff was roundly criticized for stating earlier that Canada didn’t deserve a seat, and Conservative’s pointed fingers at him even before the vote.  That domestic in-fighting may have skimmed a few votes away from Canada, but Harper will have to answer directly for the spanking he received in New York.

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About Tony Fleming

Tony is a communications and advocacy professional with over 15 years experience in United Nations reform advocacy. He began blogging about multilateral elections in 2006 at UNSG.org. He and his wife currently live in Panajachel, Guatemala. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.