Lagarde poised to become next IMF chief

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Lagarde poised to become next IMF chief

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French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde seems set to become head of the International Monetary Fund this week, despite a strong challenge to Europe’s traditional hold on the job.

A survey of voting countries by Reuters indicates Lagarde should easily get the majority she needs over Mexico’s central bank governor Agustin Carstens even though he has just got the backing of Canada and Australia.

That demonstrated their opposition to Europe’s grip on the IMF top post, but it is unlikely to change the outcome.

The race has been one of the most hotly contested in IMF history as developing countries have aggressively pursued a process that would be based on the best qualified candidate rather than on nationality, regardless of Europe’s large voting bloc.

The determining voice will be the United States, which so far has been silent on who it supports. However, the Obama administration is widely expected to back Lagarde, 55, to preserve the long-standing convention with Europe that an American gets the IMF’s No. 2 official and fills the role of president of the World Bank.

Japan and China, which rank second and third behind the United States in voting influence, have also refrained from publicly supporting any candidate. However, IMF board officials said both countries are likely to vote for Lagarde.

Although a self-proclaimed long-shot candidate, Carstens has vigorously campaigned on his experience as a former IMF official, as well as dealing with developing world economic crises.

He has the backing of all of Latin America, with Peru and Chile endorsing him at the end of last week. While Brazil has been silent on whether it supports him or not, IMF board officials expect it to join the rest of the region.