Indonesia wins UN council seat along with Germany, Belgium

CAMEROON, Cameroon — Indonesia defeated the Maldives on Friday in the only contested election for a seat on the Security Council starting Jan. 1 and will join the UN‘s most powerful body along with Germany, Belgium, South Africa and the Dominican Republic.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak announced the results of the secret ballot vote in the 193-member world body to loud applause.

The four countries running without opposition all received over 180 votes.

Indonesia is the world‘s most populous Muslim nation and has been on the council three times previously. It defeated the Maldives, a small Indian Ocean island nation which has never served on the council, by a vote of 144-46.

The Security Council has five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five countries are elected every year.

Winning a seat on the Security Council is a pinnacle of achievement for many countries because it gives them a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security ranging from conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and attacks by extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Candidates for non-permanent seats are chosen by regional groups, and Indonesia and the Maldives were in a contest for the Asia-Pacific group‘s seat.

Belgium and Germany, which have each served on the council five times previously, were elected from the Western European and Others group of nations known as WEOG. South Africa, which has been on the council twice, was elected from the Africa group, and the Dominican Republic, which has never served on the council, was elected from the Latin America and Caribbean group.

Israel had been in a three-way contest with Germany and Belgium for two WEOG seats and was facing an uphill struggle. It dropped out last month saying it "decided to postpone its candidacy."

Israel was not a member of any regional group until the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke succeeded in 2000 in getting WEOG to invite Israel to be a temporary member, which later was extended indefinitely.