Irina Bokova, Bulgaria’s representative to UNESCO and ambassador in Paris, won Tuesday’s final round of voting to become the next head of the organisation.
Bokova defeated Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni in the fifth round, gathering 31 votes in favour against Hosni’s 27 in the Unesco council. Ranked as an outsider at the start of the race, Bokova’s nomination gained momentum over the previous rounds of voting, pulling ahead of European External Relations Commissioner and former Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
In the end, Hosni’s bid was hindered by his anti-Semitic remarks that he made in 2008 and accusations of heavy-handed lobbying against Hosni were bandied about in Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, Reuters said.
Bokova, 57, attended the English-Language School in Sofia, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the University of Maryland school of public affairs. A former MP and interim foreign minister under the troubled socialist government of Zhan Videnov, her priorities as head of Unesco would be “Africa’s development needs, especially in education, and those of the Small Island Developing States as the most crisis-stricken countries in the world,” according to her campaign website.
The UN cultural and scientific organisation Unesco has chosen its new leader, former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Irina Bokova.
Ms Bokova beat the favourite, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, whose candidacy had been clouded by allegations of anti-Semitism.
It took five days and five rounds of voting to choose the new Unesco head.
In the end it was down to Ms Bokova and Mr Hosni. In the final round it seems a coalition formed to keep Mr Hosni out.
Mr Hosni, who would have been the first Arab head of Unesco, was always a controversial candidate.
For many years Egypt’s culture minister, he has spoken in the past about the “infiltration of Jews into the international media”.
Last year he said he would be willing to “burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries”, though he has since apologised for the remark.