The Security Council and the General Assembly were locked in a standoff on Monday in the voting to elect a judge for the world court, leaving Judge Dalveer Bhandari's reelection unresolved.
Bhandari consistently got a majority in the Assembly, while Britain's Christopher Greenwood led in the Council in five rounds when both chambers decided to adjourn and put off the next step to a future date yet to be decided.
Sitting Judge Bhandari had lost the Asia-Pacific seat to Lebanon's Nawaf Salam when the elections were held on Thursday to elect five judges to the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Four candidates who got the required majorities in both the Council and the Assembly were declared elected, unlike Bhandari and Greenwood who could get majorities in only one of the chambers.
After a weekend of intense lobbying the voting on Monday became a showdown between the Assembly and the Council.
The voting in the 15-member Council remained steady with none votes for Greenwood, also a sitting judge, and five for Bhandari, and one abstention. Bhandari was down one vote from Thursday, when he had received six votes.
In the Assembly, the mood was slowly turning defiant. Bhandari got 110 votes in Monday's first round and was up to 121 in the fifth round, while Greenwood slipped from 79 to 68.
The Assembly vice president, Vanuatu's Pemanent Representive Odo Tevi, who presided over the election, and Council President Sebastiano Cardi announced that the voting would resumed on a day to be mutually determined.
The stalemate brought to the fore the imbalance of power between the Council and Assembly. The Permanent Members -- who do not have a veto in the ICJ election -- have by tradition each had a judge on the world court. That is now being challenged by the Assembly, where a majority of UN members want the unrepresentative structure of the Council reformed.
The Permanent Members and their allies are rallying behind the British candidate as they do not want to see their perk endangered if one of their own loses.
If Bhandari prevails, the traditional balance in the court will be upset in two ways. There will be four Asian judges instead of the usual three and a permanent member of the Council, Britain, won't be represented.
So far, a total of nine rounds of voting have been held by the Council and 10 by the Assembly.
Three incumbent judges of the ICJ -- President Ronny Abraham of France, Vice President, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, and Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil -- were elected along with lawyer-turned-diplomat Nawaf Salam in five rounds in the Council and six in the Assembly on Thursday. In the runoff that followed Bhandari won the Assembly and Greenwood, the Council.
The two chambers can continue voting at another meeting with several rounds and if it was inconclusive, under the election procedures they can set up a conference three representatives each from Council and the Assembly to resolve the standoff.
Going by precedent, they can put off the next meeting for several weeks as it happened in 1956 when there was a similar standoff between the Council and the Assembly. In reconvened voting in 1957, Wellington Koo of Taiwan, which held China's seat at time prevailed over Japan's M. Kuriyama.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)
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