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Furrer withdraws ITU candidature

Marc Furrer was dissapointed with his showing

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Marc Furrer will not become the new head of the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU), after withdrawing from the running.

Furrer, who is head of the Federal Communications Commission, finished last among the six candidates after the second round of voting on Thursday.

The Swiss candidate was fourth with 14 votes after the first round, but obtained only nine in the second.

"Marc Furrer was surprised by his poor result, since he was asked to put his name forward by European and African countries. But the play of alliances turned against him," said Roberto Rivola, spokesman for the Swiss Communications Office.

Former Swiss government minister, Adolf Ogi, who is representing Switzerland at the ITU conference in Antalya, Turkey, said many states might in principle have been against giving the job to a Swiss.

"They think that Switzerland is already favoured since Geneva is the European seat of the United Nations," Ogi told swissinfo.

"I believe Marc Furrer was the best candidate for the job but the final choice will be a political one," he added.

The new secretary-general is now expected to be either Mali's Hamadoun Touré who received 72 votes after the second round and has the backing of African nations, or Germany's Matthias Kurth with 51 who is supported by European member states.

A final vote will be held on Friday.

Reforms

Whoever is elected to replace Japan's Yoshio Utsumi will be expected to introduce reforms to the cash-strapped organisation. The ITU operates within the United Nations system where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services.

Before the vote, Furrer told swissinfo the organisation faced big problems: "Its budget is short of SFr40 million ($32 million)," he said. "The ITU needs to cut costs, work more efficiently and perhaps be more selective regarding its mandates."

The Swiss civil servant also said the ITU must improve relations with the private sector.

"Telecommunications cannot advance without [the support of] businesses, and to enable developing countries to have access to information and communication technologies, which are essential tools in the economic development of these countries."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The 17th ministerial conference of ITU member states opened in Antalya, Turkey, on November 6 and runs until November 24.

Held every four years, the meeting is being attended by more than 2,000 participants – including 80 ministers – from over 150 countries, representing both government and the private sector as well as regional and international organisations.

Delegates are due to consider a number of reform proposals, the ITU budget and the way the organisation functions – and to choose a new secretary-general.

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Key facts

Marc Furrer biography:

1988-1992: political secretary to Adolf Ogi, communications minister.
1992-2005: director of the Federal Communications Office.
2003: Responsible for content and organisational preparations for the first phase of the UN World Summit on the Information Society.
2005: Head of the Swiss delegation during the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis.
2005-present: President of the Federal Communications Commission.

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