Lagarde: it’s a lock

By Felix Salmon
May 20, 2011
coalescing around her: she has been endorsed by Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, not to mention Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers.

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Christine Lagarde is going to be the next managing director of the IMF. European consensus is clearly coalescing around her: she has been endorsed by Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, not to mention Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers. And the only other front-runner for the job, Kemal Dervis, has now ruled himself out after the NYT published an article about an extramarital affair he had many years ago. (The woman, I understand, still works at the IMF.)

The only thing standing in Lagarde’s way at this point is a French public prosecutor and the ongoing investigation into whether she abused her authority by pushing for an arbitration settlement in a case involving Bernard Tapie. We don’t yet know whether she will face a full inquiry — and we won’t know that until mid-June, which is far too late to decide on a nominee for the IMF job.

The past three IMF managing directors — Horst Köhler, Rodrigo de Rato, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn — have all failed to finish their five-year term in the job, leaving unexpectedly for various reasons. It’s pretty important that the next person in the role not suffer the same fate.

But it’s even more important, in the eyes of the Europeans, that they nominate a consensus candidate and push that person through. At this point Lagarde is the consensus candidate; it seems inconceivable that the consensus could shift to someone else in a short space of time. So while the Belgians and others might have misgivings about nominating someone who’s under a legal cloud, that’s not going to be enough to prevent Lagarde’s nomination.

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