Not only is Christine Lagarde the European favourite for the post left vacant when Dominique Strauss-Khan resigned, but she is also emerging as the odds on favourite for the job.
Some see choosing another western European as short-sighted given the recent shift in the economic tectonic plates towards the east. In its more than 60 year history the ten leaders of the IMF have been European males with America filling the number two post.
Europe though does have a powerful bloc vote on the IMF board and if enough other backers can be found such as China and America then Ms Lagarde could be selected very quickly despite the IMF announcement that the process will take until 30th June.
The UK has already thrown its weight behind Ms Lagarde, with the chancellor, George Osborne, saying that ‘On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF’, adding that it would be good to see the first female head of the IMF. She does also of course have the same views as the British government about tackling deficits and countries living within their means, which may be a driver behind the UK establishment not backing the ex prime minister Gordon Brown for the job. The vision of Brown sat in the IMF headquarters in Washington with his sights set firmly on Downing Street may not sit well with them.
Or maybe Ms Lagarde is seen as the candidate that breaks one of the traditions of European male so disarming calls for the job to go to a non-European.
In the immediate aftermath of Strauss-Khan’s arrest his deputy, John Lipsky, has been carrying the load. But as he is due to step down at the end of August this is only a temporary measure. But this does leave the two senior IMF jobs up for grabs within a very short space of time.
There are other candidates for these jobs such as Angel Gurria of the OECD, Trevor Manuel former South African finance minister, the former head of the UN development programme Kermal Dervi and Montek Ahluwalia the first director of the IMF independent evaluation office and India’s deputy chairman of the planning commission. Mexico has also now also put forward their ‘ideal candidate’ Agustin Carstens the country’s central bank governor.
But with the IMF embroiled in the EU bail-outs Europe may not want to cede control of the IMF reins just yet. But if the US does not insist on the replacement to Mr Lipsky the IMF number two being another American then a European may not end up at the head. Unless they move fast and gain the support needed.