YEREVAN, Armenia — Michaelle Jean gambled and lost in her bid for a second term as secretary general of la Francophonie when member nations chose Rwanda's foreign minister Friday.
In a closed session at the organization's biennial summit in Armenia, the organization of French-speaking nations chose Louise Mushikiwabo to replace Jean.
The appointment was confirmed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office, which said there was "consensus" for the Rwandan lawmaker, something confirmed by several sources.
Mushikiwabo had the support of France and many African Union countries going into the summit. Both Canada and Quebec withdrew their support for Jean this week, saying they would back the "consensus candidate."
Watch: Trudeau, world leaders pose for photo at Francophonie summit. Story continues below.
Named to the post in 2014, Jean was the first secretary general not to come from Africa since the position was created in 1997.
Mushikiwabo hailed the return of an African to the office.
The Rwandan politician said she did not intend to make major changes to the direction of the organization, but she promised more transparency in Francophonie spending.
Jean had been dogged by stories of excessive spending and questionable expenses during her mandate.
Mushikiwabo did not name Jean in her acceptance speech, but she said that "each bill spent is important" and that no expense should be taken lightly.
Jean spoke briefly, saying she was happy to have advanced the organization's standing on the international stage during her time.
Jean refused to withdraw candidacy in face of steep odds
After a four-year term marked by controversy, the former governor general was considered a long shot for a second stint, but she refused to withdraw her candidacy even as support dwindled.
Some observers have said Canada made a geopolitical calculation in abandoning Jean in favour of the African candidate, hoping it would help its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2020.
African countries make up the bulk of the 54 states and member governments that voted Friday. At the UN, they represent more than a quarter of the member countries.
But Trudeau denied that Canada abandoned Jean in exchange for African or French support for the Security Council bid, saying the government had wanted a second term for Jean.
"But at the same time we recognized — and it's a question of simple math — that if there's an African consensus around a particular candidate, we would respect that consensus," Trudeau said.
"That is simply the way things unfolded."
Rwandan president pushes back against her speech
On Thursday, Jean made a final plea to member nations to hold onto the post, warning them that rights and democracy shouldn't take a back seat to partisan ambitions.
"Are we ready to accept that international organizations are used for partisan purposes?" Jean asked. "Are we ready to accept that democracy, rights and freedoms are reduced to mere words, that we make them meaningless in the name of realpolitik?"
The Rwandan government has been accused of flouting democratic rights and press freedoms. It also did not endear itself to the French-speaking world when it replaced French with English as the primary language of instruction in schools in 2008.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame pushed back against Jean's veiled criticism in an interview with The Canadian Press Friday, saying that Jean's came across as bitter and angry considering a consensus had formed backing Mushikiwabo.
"I think it was outright wrong," Kagame said of Jean's message. "To tell people who've made a choice that they are wrong — that it should be her and not everyone else — in that way, I think it displays the problem."
For Universite de Montreal researcher Jocelyn Coulon, the tense battle over the secretary general post should serve as a lesson to the organization.
"The process of selection and appointment of the secretary general is in crisis, as demonstrated by the psychodrama the organization was plunged into for a week," said Coulon, who was adviser to former global affairs minister Stephane Dion.
"It must be reformed to make it more transparent, which will give more credibility to the person elected."