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NEWS: Voting on UN Security Council seat starts at 10 am ET

Voting with paper ballots in the United Nations General Assembly main chamber will start at 10 am ET on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon spent the Thanksgiving weekend in New York lobbying for votes. This may be needed because, as the Toronto Star‘s Olivia Ward writes today, “Ottawa’s poor score on climate change and some human rights issues, declining role in peacekeeping, low rank among wealthy countries as an aid donor, as well as deletion of seven African countries from its development aid priorities may have alienated potential backers.”

The Canadian Press reported yesterday that, “Some prominent ex-Canadian ambassadors, interest groups and even the current Liberal leader, …are openly questioning whether their country has ‘earned’ a seat on the council under the Harper Conservatives. …It has left senior government insiders worrying to the point of believing Canada might lose its first ever Security Council campaign. …Groups as disparate as the separatist federal Bloc Quebecois and Council of Canadians interest group have questioned Canada’s UN worthiness. But sharp criticism has come from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, as well as two of Canada’s most distinguished ex-ambassadors to the UN (including Robert Fowler and Paul Heinbecker).”

The Ottawa Citizen reports this morning that Trade minister Peter Van Loan’s announcement yesterday of exploratory talks on expanding the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement may have also hurt Harper’s chances of winning a seat. That’s because “Arab and Muslim countries either control or have varying degrees of influence over a majority of votes in the assembly…”

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “A country’s broad national representation is a poor guide to its likely success, noted David Malone, a former ambassador who help mount Canada’s last winning bid, in an academic article on the process. Instead, candidates must woo each country individually. They also engage in a ‘surprisingly brisk’ trade in votes, Mr. Malone wrote, swapping support in the Security Council process for backing in other bodies, both inside and outside of the UN.”

Former US ambassador to the UN Sichan Siv recently commented on trading votes saying, “Developing countries will look at what we call the neutral agreements, who supports each other on the UN level. If I vote for you, would you vote for me?”

And Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders wrote in March 2009 that Canada will be “trading away votes on UN General Assembly resolutions, seats on other important world institutions, clauses in trade agreements and public support in worldwide conflicts in exchange for votes on this one crucial campaign. There is nothing new or unusual in this; it’s how power is won in international bodies.”

So if Harper does win in his bid today, one question may be, what did he trade to win it? It has also been asked, what agenda will Harper advance in the most powerful body at the UN?

Results of the secret ballot vote could be known by 11 am ET.