LONDON—The contest to elect a new director-general of UNESCO is about to enter a period of international wheeling and dealing. The election could test the organization's ability to emerge from two years of disarray and indecision.

No front-runner for the top post has appeared, although member states may nominate candidates through the end of this month. The 50-member Executive Board then must select a single candidate to propose to the General Conference in November.

Director-General Amadou M'Bow of Senegal announced in November that he would not seek a third five-year term. His recent decision to bring suit against a French magazine that described him as a "megalomaniacal despot" has virtually removed all possibility of his staying in the post.

The UNESCO contest will set the pace for a flurry of elections in the United Nations system. Political maneuverings and bargaining will determine by early next year who emerges at the...

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