A fragmented Europe selects three IMF managing director candidates

On Friday 26 July, Europeans identified five candidates for the position of IMF managing director ahead of the nomination deadline on 6 September. The initial list of contenders was whittled down to just three on Monday 29.

Traditionally, leadership selection at the World Bank and IMF is subject to a historic ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which has ensured that the IMF managing director has always been a European and the World Bank president a US national. IMF managing directors have disproportionately been French nationals. Of the 11 managing directors, five have been French, followed by two from Sweden, and one each from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany. This time round, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is coordinating the European selection promise.

A fragmented Europe fails to reach consensus

Customarily, Europeans select one candidate and the process of deliberation towards consensus building around that candidate is largely done behind closed doors. This time however, as Europe faces the possibility of growing fragmentation, European governments have struggled to select someone that could win enough support, with reports that the French have sought to widen the pool of candidates, not by looking outside of Europe, but by scrapping the age limit for the job.

According to a French finance ministry official in Bloomberg, the five candidates initially selected by Europeans were:

  • Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calvino
  • Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno
  • Former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem
  • World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria
  • Bank of Finland Governor Olli Rehn

However, just three days later, Europeans narrowed the list to only include Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Kristalina Georgieva and Olli Rehn. The decision may be regarded as an attempt to shift the pool of candidates to the right, as Mario Centeno, in his position as Portuguese minister of finance, has been a vocal opponent to several harsh austerity measures, and Nadia Calvino has been described as a socialist.

Who did not make the cut?  

Of the previous European names floated, several failed to make the shortlist, including Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, after it was rumoured that despite being a European national, EU ministers did not consider him to be “European enough” for the role. Moreover, Mario Draghi, the current European Central Bank president, has reportedly ruled himself out of the running, while George Osborne, former Conservative UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, who nominated himself, is nowhere to be seen on official lists.

What next?

According to the IMF webpage detailing the nominations process, updated on July 26, “Individuals may be nominated for the position of Managing Director by a Fund Governor or an Executive Director during a nomination period which shall commence on July 29, 2019 at 12:01 a.m., Washington, D.C. time and will close on September 6, 2019 at 11:59 p.m., Washington, D.C. time. All nominations shall be communicated to the Fund Secretary, who shall obtain confirmation from each nominee of his or her willingness to be considered as a candidate,” noting that the objective is that the selection process is completed by October 4, 2019.

Uncertainty now engulfs the process, as Europeans are reportedly unsure their selected candidates will gain support from the emerging market economies and the US administration, while it remains to be seen whether any non-European candidates will emerge before the 6 September deadline.

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