India, Mexico, Ireland and Norway join UN Security Council

Ambassadors vote under measures introduced to prevent spread of Covid-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 20, 2017 an official looks at the empty chairs of leaders ahead of their participation in an open debate of the United Nations Security Council in New York. The UN General Assembly on June 17, 2020 will elect five new members of the Security Council for 2021 and 2022, with battles underway for the Western and African seats. / AFP / POOL / Stephane LEMOUTON
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India, Mexico, Ireland and Norway were elected to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, but the 193 UN member states must return on Thursday to fill a vacant seat for which there was no clear winner.

Canada lost out to Ireland and Norway in a hotly contested election in which Ireland enlisted the help of U2 singer Bono.

It took UN ambassadors to a U2 concert while Canada took them to a performance by Celine Dion.

Mexico and India were elected unopposed. Kenya and Djibouti were competing for the final seat.

Seats are allocated to regional groups to ensure all areas are represented.

But even if candidates are running unopposed in their group, they still need to win the support of more than two thirds of the General Assembly.

The new members will start their two-year term in the 15-member council on January 1.

Diplomats also elected Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir as the president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

Mr Bozkir was elected unopposed and will take up the role this year.

Wednesday's voting went ahead under dramatically different procedures because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UN headquarters complex remains open for essential workers, but most staff have been ordered to work from home until July 31 because of the pandemic.

Instead of gathering ambassadors from member states in the General Assembly chamber for elections, a new procedure was adopted.

On Wednesday, a few ambassadors arrived at the assembly during phased times starting at 9am to avoid a large gathering and ensure social distancing.

Instead of voting separately for the General Assembly president, five new members of the Security Council and 18 new members of the Economic and Social Council, the elections were held at the same time by secret ballot.

Each arriving ambassador wore a mask, presented a voting card to a UN staff member, received three different coloured paper ballots in an envelope, and went up an escalator into the nearly empty chamber.

There Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria sat in the presiding seat, overlooking the cavernous space.

Among the early voters were US ambassador Kelly Craft and the ambassadors of Poland and Turkey.

Each sat in a spaced-out seat behind the name plate of their country, marked their ballots, then walked to the front of the chamber to deposit them in three colour-coded boxes.

The most watched election is for seats in the Security Council, the UN’s most powerful body.

There are five permanent members – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – and 10 members elected by the assembly.

Five new members are elected every year.

Winning a seat on the council is considered a pinnacle of achievement for many countries, because it gives them a strong voice on issues of international peace and security.

They include conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, the nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran, and attacks by extremist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Before Covid-19, countries running for Security Council seats often invited ambassadors for lavish visits to their nations, and put on dinners and held receptions with entertainment.

They also sent senior government officials around the world lobbying for votes.