25 May 2011

Christine Lagarde to stand for IMF top job

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde announces her candidature to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director – but she faces opposition from the developing economies.

Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister, today announced she will stand as candidate to be the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Ms Lagarde is regarded as favourite to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as IMF chief earlier this month after he was arrested and charged over an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid in New York.

“I have decided to present my candidacy to become Managing Director of the IMF,” Ms Lagarde told a press conference.

It is a huge challenge, which I approach with a lot of humility. Christine Lagarde, French Finance Minister

“I have done so after some consideration, and after consulting with – and with the agreement of – the French president and the prime minister, who have offered me all their support.

“Over several days, I have received the support of several different countries. They have helped to reassure me in my decision to present my candidacy.

“It is a huge challenge, which I approach with a lot of humility and in the hope of securing a broad consensus.”

The governments of several major European economies – including the UK, Germany and Italy – have come out in support of Ms Lagarde since the resignation of Mr Strauss-Kahn, confirming her status as the IMF’s likely choice.

However, emerging economies are unenthusiastic at the prospect of one of the top positions in international finance going again to a representative from an EU country. Traditionally, the IMF has been led by a European, while an American has held the presidency of the World Bank.

Read more: Christine Lagarde or Gordon Brown to become Managing Director of the IMF?

On Tuesday IMF board members from China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa issued a joint statement criticising “high-level European officials” for the suggestion that the position of managing director should continue to be occupied by a European.

Rival candidates to become managing director include Kemal Dervis, Turkey’s former finance minister, Trevor Manuel of South Africa, and India’s Montek Ahluwalia, formerly of the IMF and currently deputy chair of India’s Planning Commission.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Finance Minister, Ernesto Cordero, today called for a transparent process to select the new IMF MD.

The candidates all have to be evaluated and coordinated on their merits, and that is going to be very good for the IMF. Ernesto Cordero, Mexican Finance Minister

“There are going to be several candidates,” he said. “They all have to be evaluated and coordinated on their merits, and that is going to be very good for the IMF.”

Mr Cordero acknowledged the merits of Ms Lagarde, but stressed the merits of Augustin Carstens, head of Mexico’s central bank. “Mexico has always been proposing an open process, a transparent process on a merit basis, and that is why we are proposing Augustin Carstens.”

France’s finance minister nonetheless remains the strong favourite. William Hill’s Graham Sharpe compares the procedure to the race to succeed Carlo Ancelotti as manager of Chelsea Football Club.

“At the start they all say Marco Van Basten,” he told Channel 4 News. “Then it’s Guus Hiddink, then Harry Redknapp, then Martin O’Neill. Then, when the nomination is finally made, they all say: ‘I told you so!'”

The IMF board will continue to accept nominations for the managing director’s job until 10 June. The final decision is expected by 30 June.