France seeks swift succession to end protests over IMF post

Emerging economies object to 'carve-up' but do not have a strong candidate to replace Strauss-Kahn

Despite protests by emerging countries, Europe moved yesterday to maintain its stranglehold on one of the key jobs in world politics, the leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After winning the overt backing of all EU governments, and the unspoken approval of the US and China, the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, announced that she was a candidate to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The world's emerging economies have objected to the unwritten rule that Europeans should hold the top job at the IMF, which provides loans and economic advice to heavily indebted and struggling countries. But an unstoppable momentum is expected to build behind the Lagarde candidature when leaders of the world's richest countries meet for a G8 summit in Deauville in Normandy today and tomorrow.

Ms Lagarde also faces a potential legal investigation for alleged abuse of ministerial power in France. Neither this issue, nor the complaints of emerging nations, should block her election in late June

Senior officials representing the so-called Brics group of emerging nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – protested that the 60-year European monopoly on the job was "obsolete". Nogueira Batista, the IMF executive director from Brazil, said it was "outrageous" that, more than six decades after a transatlantic carve-up of the world's top economic jobs, there remained an unspoken assumption that the managing director of the IMF should, once again, come from Europe.

But the Brics countries have not come up with a strong candidate of their own and China has, according to French officials, said privately that it will support Ms Lagarde.

The formal Brics protest is, therefore, seen as a kind of long-range warning by emerging countries. They expect the shift in the economic balance of power away from Europe and the US to be reflected in the choice of Ms Lagarde's successor as IMF managing director in five years.

Ms Lagarde, 55, was an international, corporate lawyer rather than an economic expert before she was head-hunted to join the French government in 2005. As Finance Minister since 2007, her fluent English and confident, friendly manner have made her a favourite with the world's media.

As a former head of a Chicago-based US law firm, Baker & McKenzie, she is popular in the US. She is admired by emerging countries for advocating a small tax on all financial transactions to fund aid for those nations.

From a European point of view, the strength of Ms Lagarde's candidacy is a godsend. The arrest of Mr Strauss-Kahn, on charges of attempted rape in New York, had threatened to destabilise the close co-operation between European countries and the IMF on attempts to solve the debt crisis in euroland. Ms Lagarde is seen, in Europe, as not only a wise and calm head but a guarantee of continuity.

"It is an immense challenge which I approach with humility and in the hope of achieving the broadest possible consensus," Ms Lagarde told reporters yesterday. "If I'm elected I'll bring all my expertise as a lawyer, a minister, a manager and a woman to the job," she said. Ms Lagarde would be the first woman to head the IMF. She has long argued that world politics and finance is too male-dominated. She told The Independent in February: "In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to... show how hairy-chested they are... I honestly think there should never be too much testosterone in one room."

The vote is expected in late June, at the 24-member IMF executive board. Although the IMF has 187 member countries, membership of the executive board and voting power is heavily concentrated in the hands of the world's largest economies. A nod from the G8 summit this week would virtually assure Ms Lagarde's election.

But she does face a potential stumbling block at home. A special court which investigates alleged ministerial wrongdoing will decide on 10 June whether to investigate Ms Lagarde's role in a generous €285m pay-off in 2008 to the disgraced French tycoon and politician Bernard Tapie.

He was stripped of his ownership of the Adidas sports company in the 1990s. After a long legal battle, Ms Lagarde approved a private, rather than judicial, arbitration in Mr Tapie's favour. This decision is alleged to have been inspired by President Nicolas Sarkozy as a pay-off for the leftist Mr Tapie's support during the 2007 election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat