September 21, 2023

Europe and Emerging Nations Vie to Fill I.M.F. Job

Mr. Strauss-Kahn stepped down late Wednesday after explosive accusations that he had sexually assaulted a housekeeper in a New York hotel room. Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner and others pushed to seek an interim leader for the fund quickly.

Within hours of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation, politicians from across Europe closed ranks, appearing to coalesce behind Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, to succeed Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who is also French.

German news organizations reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel would back Ms. Lagarde as Mrs. Merkel publicly called for a European to assume the job.

“Of course developing nations are within their rights in the medium term to occupy the post of either I.M.F. head or World Bank chief,” Mrs. Merkel said,  according to news reports. “But I think that in the current situation, with serious problems with the euro and the I.M.F. strongly involved, there is a lot in favor of a European candidate being put forward.”

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, echoed that thought. “It should be a European,” he said at a business conference in Brussels on Wednesday. Taken together, European members “are the biggest stakeholders in the I.M.F. Why now choose someone because he is not European? That makes no sense.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers are scheduled to appear in a New York court Thursday afternoon to make another plea for his release from prison on Rikers Island, after a judge ordered him held without bail earlier this week.

“It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the executive board my resignation from my post of managing director of the I.M.F.,” he said in a statement dated Wednesday and released early Thursday by the I.M.F.

He added: “I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.”

As they absorbed the news of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation, officials from the rising economic powers said they should get to play a bigger role in choosing the I.M.F.’s next leader.

“In principle, we believe that emerging and developing countries should have representation at senior levels,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday, the second such statement in two days.

Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, said late Wednesday: “We must establish meritocracy, so that the person leading the I.M.F. is selected for their merits and not for being European.”

Mr. Geithner on Thursday urged that the selection process take place quickly and transparently, but he did not give any clues as to who the United States might support.

An I.M.F. official predicted some sort of compromise. “Presumably there will be some horse trading, given the push for a European and for a person from the emerging markets,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the situation.

One scenario insiders were discussing would allow a European like Ms. Lagarde to step in for the rest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s term, which expires in October 2012, and then hand the reins to an official from an emerging market. That would give Europeans a level of comfort over the I.M.F.’s role in Europe’s debt crisis, especially if a default threatens Greece, or a new round of contagion hits Portugal, Ireland or other countries in crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France spoke with Mrs. Merkel by phone Wednesday and will speak with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain on Friday about succession, said an official in his office who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The issue will also be on the agenda when President Obama and other heads of the nations known as the Group of 8 meet in Deauville, France, next week to discuss major global issues, the official said.

John Lipsky, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s deputy, has been named temporary managing director and will also attend the Deauville meetings representing the I.M.F. While he had already announced plans to leave the agency in August, officials said he would  stay in the job until a new chief is appointed.

Gerry Mullany contributed reporting from New York, Katrin Bennhold from Paris and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong.

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