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Lagarde confirms her bid for IMF’s top job

The French minister has today entered the race to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, though developing countries are unhappy.

Image: Bob Edme/AP

FRANCE’S FINANCE MINISTER Christine Lagarde has this morning formally declared her candidacy to become the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund today, seeking to succeed her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Lagarde confirm her candidacy for the job today at a press conference ahead of a two-day meeting of the G8, which begins in Deauville on Thursday. The New York Times had explained that Lagarde called the press conference herself yesterday without confirming the topic.

Lagarde, who has been the Minister for Finance in France since mid-2007, has already secured the backing of the major European economies and the US – with France saying that Lagarde also has the backing of China, almost totally sealing her election, Reuters reports.

The 55-year-old attended college in the United States and speaks perfect English, attributes which are expected to auger in her favour – though her expertise as a lawyer rather than as an economist may see her influence shift should she take the job.

Some of the IMF’s leading developing economies, however, have expressed concern about how the next head is being selected – issuing a joint statement again contesting Europe’s habitual right to choose the leader.

“We are concerned with public statements made recently by high-level European officials to the effect that the position of managing director should continue to be occupied by a European,” read a statement issued jointly by Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.

That statement was also signed by China – indicating that the world’s second-largest economy may be happy to back Lagarde for now, but is keen to upset the status quo where Europeans head the IMF and Americans head the World Bank.

Bloomberg suggests that while the concerns of the so-called ‘BRICS’ countries may be taken on board, the absence of any consensus candidate as an alternative to Lagarde means she is virtually assured of success.

The managing directorship of the IMF has been held by a European since 1944, the BBC says.

Virtually the only obstacle in Lagarde’s way is a pending court case in France. A court is examining whether her decision to refer a business dispute with high-profile businessman Bernard Tapie to arbitration in 2007 – thus bypassing the courts – was an inappropriate use of her authority.

A ruling on that matter is due on June 10, Reuters reports.

The position at the helm of the IMF has been vacant since Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned from the job last week, amid an ongoing criminal case in which he is charged with the attempted rape of a chambermaid at a New York hotel.

He is currently free on $1m bail in New York.

Ireland ‘wouldn’t have any concerns’ about Lagarde as IMF head >

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Gavan Reilly

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