(photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS)
French Jewish candidate Audrey Azoulay beat out her Egyptian competition for the right to compete in the final round of voting for the position of UNESCO director-general on Friday evening.
The secret ballot vote was held in Paris on Friday afternoon by UNESCO’s 58-member execute board. Azoulay received 31 votes, compared to 25 for Egyptian human rights activist Moushira Khattab. Two countries abstained.
The board has held secret ballot votes every day this week, whittling down the seven candidate to Azoulay and former Qatari culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.
Kawari has held the lead in each round of voting, a fact that has concerned Jewish groups who have charged that he is antisemitic
On Thursday, just before the final round of votes, the US said it planned to pull out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization citing among other things its anti-Israel bias
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO
Israel's Envoy to UNESCO: "We will not take part in this ugly game" over Temple Mount
The decision will not go into effect until December 2018 and there is some speculation that the US could change its mind if UNSCO ends its politicized behavior and takes steps to reform the organization.
Some diplomats speculated that the US announcement could help Azoulay’s candidacy.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman tweeted out a congratulatory note to Azoulay and wished her success in the final election against Kawari that will be held tonight.
The winner must be confirmed by the UNESCO general conference next month and will replace outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova in January 2018.