By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The opinions expressed are his own.
This weekend's detention of the IMF's chief on allegations of sexual assault has implications that go well beyond the impact on Dominique Strauss-Kahn's (or, as he is commonly known, DSK) international prestige. They could also impact the IMF, France, market uncertainty and the well-being of the global economy.
We must wait to make a full assessment until we know the outcome of ongoing police investigations into allegations that, according to his lawyer, DSK intends to “contest vigorously.” Having said that, some commentators are already taking the view that the IMF could lose its managing director, and that France could lose a leading candidate for next year's presidential elections.
Should he be forced to step down, DSK would be the third successive head of the IMF to leave suddenly. Once again, this would catch the institution with a selection process for the top position that is still overly dominated by politics, horse-trading between Europe and the US and other outmoded characteristics.
The IMF, whose shareholders are 187 member countries, would have two choices if it has to replace DSK quickly: Retain its feudalistic approach, or implement an open merit-based selection process based on clear criteria and a transparent process.
The first would allow the Fund to move quickly in appointing a new head, but doing so uses a method that lacks credibility and legitimacy. The second would correct a long-standing deficiency, but slow the appointment.