By Sandrine Rastello -Bloomberg News
Christine Lagarde strengthened her lead in the race for the International Monetary Fundâ€™s top job after the institution discarded the candidacy of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and rival Agustin Carstens described his chance of winning as â€œslim.â€
The IMF executive board said in a statement late yesterday inWashington that it retained Lagarde and Carstens as the candidates for the post of managing director, excluding Fischer, who exceeds the age limit for the job. Earlier, Carstens had described Lagardeâ€™s chances of being chosen as â€œquite high.â€
The IMF will meet with both candidates in Washington with the aim of making a decision by June 30, a month and a half after the arrest of former chiefÂ Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape. He has pleaded not guilty. A Lagarde win means an extension of the 65-year tradition of a European heading the IMF; Americans have run the World Bank.
â€œThe emerging markets are not happy with the current guarantee that the slotâ€™s going to the European, I suspect this time they will be satisfied to make some noise,â€ saidÂ David Cohen, a Singapore-based economist at Action Economics Ltd., who formerly worked at the U.S. Federal Reserve. â€œEmerging-market economies are looking towards the future for next time, they are confident the world is definitely evolving in their direction.â€
Carstens, Mexicoâ€™s central bank governor, yesterday said chances are â€œquite highâ€ that Lagarde,Â Franceâ€™s finance minister, will win. He said that he put his name forward in an effort to help emerging markets get the post in the future.
â€œIâ€™m not fooling myself,â€ Carstens said in Washington after meeting with U.S. Treasury SecretaryÂ Timothy F. Geithner. â€œItâ€™s like starting a soccer game with a 5-0 score,â€ given Lagardeâ€™s early front-runner status, he said.
Lagarde is solidly backed by the European Union. In recent days she got endorsements fromMorocco,Â Bahrain,Â Egypt and theÂ United Arab Emirates. French news agencyÂ Agence France-Presse said Indonesian Finance MinisterÂ Agus Martowardojo also added his support.
Carstens says he is backed by 12 Latin American nations, while he hasnâ€™t won an endorsement from the regionâ€™s biggest economy –Â Brazil.
Fischer, 67, had bet that his experience, including a stint as the No. 2 IMF official would prompt fund members to waive an age requirement that would exclude him from the managing director position, a person familiar with the situation said.
The IMF stuck by its by-laws, which put an age limit at 65 to assume leadership of the lender that has extended one-third of the assistance in euro-area bailout packages. Age isnâ€™t a barrier for Carstens, 53, or Lagarde, 55.
The board of directors in a statement yesterday said that it will consider Lagarde and Carstens in a move â€œconsistent with the Board decision adopted on May 20 specifying the procedures for the selection of the next Managing Director, and the applicable By-Laws of the IMF.â€
Carstens said yesterday he entered the competition to be coherent with developing economiesâ€™ claim that the selection of the IMF head should be open and based on merit. The job has traditionally gone to a European as part of an agreement in place since start of the postwar era that also has the U.S. pick the head of theÂ World Bank.
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