By Audrey Young
Mike Moore's bid to head the World Trade Organisation has developed into a battle over whether there should be a vote.
Mr Moore's chances of getting the job received a major boost at the weekend when the general council chairman, Ali Mchumo, named him the candidate around whom a consensus could best be reached.
But supporters of Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi, are insisting on a vote - unprecedented for any WTO decision.
Leading resistance to Mr Moore and calling for a vote are Japan, Association of South-east Asian Nations countries, Pakistan and India.
But a vote cannot be held without the consensus to have a vote. So long as Mr Moore's camp - and some of Dr Supachai's - continues to resist, a vote cannot be held.
Mr Moore told the New Zealand Herald last night that the consensus decision-making protected smaller countries.
Battle-stations will be drawn at the next meeting of ambassadors, scheduled to start midnight tonight (NZ time).
The cleanest and quickest way now for a Moore victory is if Dr Supachai can be persuaded to withdraw.
Failing that, Supachai supporters may begin to accede to a consensus process.
A Supachai win is virtually impossible after the events of the weekend, close observers of the increasingly bitter contest agree. The most likely alternative to a Moore victory is deadlock, with no result after the seven-month struggle to choose a director-general.
On Saturday morning, Mr Mchumo told ambassadors of the general council that Mr Moore had more countries supporting him, 62 to 59 (leaving 13 undeclared), broader geographical support, and less intense opposition.
Mr Mchumo said much of the opposition to Mr Moore was based not only on the fact that he was from a developed country, but also "what is perceived to be the main source of his support" - a clear reference to the United States, says a Reuters report.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, has modified her position on a byelection in Mr Moore's Waimakariri electorate.
Over a month ago, when National was doing well in the polls, she said she would welcome a byelection.
At a weekend party conference, and in the face of a couple of appalling weeks for the Government, she canvassed the option of avoiding a byelection.
By Audrey Young