In an election that reflected strong opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine, European Union and NATO member Slovenia defeated Moscow’s close ally Belarus on Tuesday for a seat on the UN Security Council starting in January.
The race between the two members from Eastern Europe was the only contested election for five seats on the UN’s most powerful body.
In the secret ballot election in the 193-member General Assembly, Slovenia received 153 votes while Belarus got 38 votes.
The contest was closely watched because of their opposing views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“UN member states doubtlessly decided that Belarus’ grave human rights abuses at home and whitewashing of Russian atrocities in Ukraine disqualify it from serving on the Security Council,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch.
Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon told reporters she was surprised at the support for her country.
She said it proves that Slovenia convinced the vast majority of U.N. member nations that it can be “a reliable partner.”
As a small country committed to multilateralism it’s extremely important to speak to everyone and “embrace all parts of the world, and to work together for a better world,” Fajon said.
Slovenia, a part of Yugoslavia before it broke up in the early 1990s, will be joining the council for the second time since 1998-99.
The four other countries elected to the Security Council to serve two-year terms, who faced no opposition, were Guyana, which received 191 votes, Sierra Leone with 188 votes, Algeria with 184 votes and South Korea with 180 votes.
The 10 non-permanent seats on the council are allotted to regional groups, who usually select candidates, but sometimes cannot agree on an uncontested slate.
The five new council members will start their terms on Jan. 1, replacing five countries whose two-year terms end on December 31 — Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates.
They will join the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council — the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France — and the five countries elected last year: Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland.
The Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, but because of Russia’s veto power, it has been unable to take action on Ukraine.