Edith M. Lederer

UNITED NATIONS: Sweden won election to a seat on the U.N. Security Council in the first round of voting on Tuesday, defeating the Netherlands and Italy who must now fight for a second open seat for the Western group of nations.

Neither Kazakhstan nor Thailand gained the required two-thirds majority of those present and voting in the 193-member General Assembly so they must face each other again in a second round of voting for one Asian seat.

Ethiopia and Bolivia, who faced no opposition, were also elected to the U.N.’s most powerful body.

After the first-round results were announced, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft immediately moved to a second ballot.

The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms. Seats are allocated by region, and regional groups nominate candidates.

Security Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security from conflicts in Syria to South Sudan to actions that threaten global stability such as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and attacks by extremist groups such as the Islamic State. The council must also authorize the U.N.’s far-flung peacekeeping operations.

Five countries are elected to the council every year.

In Tuesday’s election for two seats allocated to the Western regional group, a two-thirds majority of 128 was needed. Sweden got 134 votes, the Netherlands 125 and Italy 113. For the Asian seat, Kazakhstan got 113 votes and Thailand received 77 — well below the two-thirds needed.

Last month, the five countries in contested races for council seats participated in the first-ever election debates in the U.N.’s 70-year history, organized by the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

Those debates were part of a new effort to bring greater transparency to the United Nations, started by the General Assembly which for the first time this year has held open question-and-answer sessions with the 11 candidates seeking to succeed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. His second five-year term ends on Dec. 31.

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This story has been corrected to fix that Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands were contending for seats representing the Western group of nations instead of Europe.