UN race: Bulgaria swaps Irina Bokova for Kristilana Georgieva, likely hurting Helen Clark's chances

Kristilana Georgieva (Twitter/supplied)
Kristilana Georgieva (Twitter/supplied)

A global powerplay has rocked the race for United Nations' top role with the last-minute entry of a new female candidate from Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria's Kristilana Georgieva's dramatic late decision to run can only be seen as a devastating blow for Helen Clark, who was already struggling.

Ms Georgieva, a former World Bank economist, is currently the budget chief at the European Union and has the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She is from Eastern Europe, which believes it is its turn to have the Secretary-General, and she would satisfy the push to have a woman in the role for the first time.

To install Ms Georgieva, the Bulgarian government has had to kneecap another candidate - Irina Bokova - who has been beating Helen Clark. Ms Bokova has been in the race from the get-go, and for Bulgaria to pull support shows something is clearly up.

There has been a push to get Ms Georgieva in for some time, with Ms Merkel hitting up Russian President Vladamir Putin on the sidelines of the G20.

It is a clear move to get Ms Georgieva in before the next straw poll of the Security Council, which is the first meaningful poll because because vetos will be used for the first time.

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Gutteres has been leading, but he is a man and is not from Eastern Europe.

A source from inside Helen Clark's team told Newshub "it is not quite over for Helen". That's because there is still a chance the unpredictable Russia could veto Ms Georgieva.

Other countries may also be upset at the process being subverted, with Ms Georgieva absent during the public campaign.

However, it looks likely that Ms Georgieva is the political solution and the 'compromise candidate”' acceptable to all countries that Ms Clark was hoping to be.