Opinion: Aunty Helen must win 'Cold War'

Helen Clark (Getty)
Helen Clark (Getty)

To win the United Nations' top job, Helen Clark has to come out on top of a Cold War between the United States and Russia.

The two superpowers and old foes are already lining up against each other, meaning this is by far the biggest power play that 'Aunty Helen' has ever pulled off.

As permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia and the United States have veto rights which extend to the Secretary-General, meaning they can block a Secretary-General candidate they don't like.

Russia has already said it wants Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian head of UNESCO with a similar background to Ms Clark.

So, will Russia use its veto to block Ms Clark? Or will the United States use its veto to block Ms Bokova?

Basically there is a high-stakes game of political chicken going on as Ms Clark tries to come out on top of this global shakedown.

Ms Clark has a lot in her favour right now. The United Nations wants a woman. The Security Council has a key role, and New Zealand has a seat on it right now.

Ms Clark has a near-perfect CV for the job, and as head of UNDP has been in an ideal place for the backroom wheeling-and-dealing.

But running against Ms Clark is regional rotation -- the tradition that the role is rotated around regions, and that it is eastern Europe's turn.

That favours Ms Bokova from Bulgaria. And that's where Russia comes in -- Russia obviously wants to stick with the eastern Europe rotation, as it is their turn.

But Ms Clark would not compete unless she truly thought it was her turn, or our turn.

Being the first female head of the United Nations is more than a legacy for her -- it almost feels like destiny.

While we deify Ms Clark for her significant global achievement, now let us not forget that she is the queen of backroom knife-jobs and political jackbooting.

Ms Clark is now in the political battle of her lifetime, and will need every inch of her experience and will to win.