Wider race reveals value of WHO, says frontrunner
Mexico's health minister, seen by some as a frontrunner in the race to become the next World Health Organisation director-general, said he welcomed more contenders joining the race, as this reflected the importance of the UN health agency.
Julio Frenk was speaking yesterday after the South China Morning Post reported that four more people had joined the fray. A fifth confirmed his candidacy yesterday, bringing to 10 the number of declared candidates.
Among the contenders are Hong Kong's former director of health, Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, who has received backing from Beijing, and Japan's Shigeru Omi, the WHO's director for the Western Pacific.
'This reflects the strong interest and the good function of the WHO,' Dr Frenk said from Mexico City.
'The fact that so many competent candidates have expressed interest is a reflection of the importance that we all attach to the work of the WHO.'
He declined to say how this would affect his chances.
The election was sparked by the death of Lee Jong-wook in May, who served almost three years of a five-year term. The 34-member Executive Board will also decide the term of Lee's successor.
Dr Frenk would not speculate on who might be his closest rivals but said he hoped that all candidates would run a 'serious and dignified' campaign.
'The WHO deserves candidates that take their campaigns seriously, who go out and visit each of the 34 countries on the [Executive] Board. This is also a sign of respect to the member states,' he said.
In 2003, there were eight official candidates, who were cut to five by the board. The same process will be adopted for this year's election, set for between November 6 and 9 at the Geneva headquarters.
Meanwhile, medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said he still thought Dr Chan's chance of winning the top job was very high. I believe with the support of the mainland government, she is still at the top of the list.'
He had questioned why Hong Kong's taxpayers were footing the bill for a campaign aide for Dr Chan's campaign.
Dr Chan's campaign is funded by the Beijing government, and all other candidates' campaigns are funded by their own governments, which are also responsible for nominating candidates.