Lagarde the early favourite to take over as head of IMF

If a European does get the IMF job, it is difficult to see one getting the World Bank job. Mr Brown may be stymied

After Dominique Strauss-Kahn yielded to the intense pressure on him to jump before he was pushed and resign as head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister and described by her admirers as a "financial rock star" emerged as favourite to succeed him.

Gordon Brown, who has made little secret of his availability for the post, appears an outsider. His staff said yesterday he had not been running a "campaign", but has been fielding many calls from supporters. The open hostility to him from David Cameron and George Osborne remains the principal obstacle in his way and their poor view of his economic record appears to be shared elsewhere: the Swedish finance minister Anders Borg yesterday suggested that "it would be difficult to have someone so responsible for the fiscal crisis in the UK at the helm of the IMF". By contrast, he praised Ms Lagarde's "outstanding credentials."

Mr Osborne last week called her "a good friend". If successful she would be the first female, though the fourth French national, to be IMF boss.

But the decision on the succession is far from made and far from imminent. The acting managing director, John Lipsky, could run the IMF until the autumn and there will be much diplomatic wrangling meantime. Ms Lagarde has some strong competition from within Europe and the emerging economies, who have been increasingly vocal in their wish to see a non-Westerner in the post. Zhou Xiaochuan, the head of the People's Bank of China said: "The composition of senior management should better reflect changes in global economic patterns and represent emerging markets."

Against that, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has voiced openly her preference for a European and the former Bundesbank president, Axel Weber, is being touted as Berlin's preference, with the governor of the Swiss central bank, Philipp Hildebrand, a second choice.

The argument being put forward by the eurozone powers is that with much of the sovereign debt problems of the world centred on Europe and with three substantial IMF rescues under way there, it would be best if a European were to head the fund. They would, it is hoped, bring a more immediate knowledge of Europe's problems and the political context of the crises.

Emerging nations, though, point to the irony that the nations now being asked to fund bailouts for Europe are effectively debarred from putting forward a candidate to be managing director by the old convention that the job is held by a European. A fresh pair of eyes, it is said, is now needed to look at Europe's problems and a there are a number of viable candidates. Leading the field are Kemal Dervis, a former Turkish finance minister, Trevor Manuel, who was South Africa's finance minister and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, senior economic policy-maker in India.

Much now depends on how the US views the process. Since the 1944 foundation of the World Bank and the IMF, the unwritten rule has been that the World Bank presidency is reserved for an American and the IMF for a European. With the rise in economic power of the emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil has come increasing pressure to offer them a wider role on the world stage.

That pressure led to the formation of the G20 as the principal forum in global economic policy making, supplanting the older G7 group of the established powers in the West. For now, though, the US and Europe still dominate the voting at the IMF and they would have to take a decision to relinquish the old convention.

How IMF succession works

* Formally, the IMF managing director is elected by the Fund's executive board, but in reality they prefer a leader to emerge by "consensus".

* The US, which has 16 per cent, and the Europeans dominate the voting in this 24-strong group, in which the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan represent themselves; others represent geographical blocs of nations.

* The fast-emerging nations are still under-represented, despite proposals to boost their share of power.

* By-laws state the managing director must be under 65 on appointment, and can serve until 70, but this could be amended for the right candidate.

Sean O'Grady

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most