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Lagarde’s IMF bid sets stage for possible clash

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post / May 26, 2011

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LONDON — France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, formally announced her candidacy to lead the Washington-based International Monetary Fund yesterday, instantly becoming the front-runner in a race that has seen European powers line up behind one of their own.

But Lagarde’s bid sets up a potential clash with emerging economic giants such as Brazil and India, who argue that the world’s wealthiest nations should no longer have a lock on the global economic world’s top job.

If successful, the 55-year-old, blunt-talking Frenchwoman with deep roots in the United States would become the first female managing director of the IMF, filling a role vacated by her countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Strauss-Kahn resigned last week in the face of sexual assault charges filed against him by a New York City maid.

Lagarde, who cracked the glass ceiling in law and financial diplomacy with the force of a power drill, would bring a decidedly new mood to the male-dominated halls of economic power. The first woman to serve as financial chief of a major world economy, Lagarde is known as a formidable negotiator, with insiders describing her as a key to uniting a bickering Europe in the quest to save the euro and manage the debt crisis that has rocked the region.

“If I’m elected, I will bring all my expertise as a lawyer, a minister, a manager, and a woman’’ to the IMF, she said.

Though France, Britain, and Germany have lined up behind her, fundamental to her bid is the support of the United States. President Obama is expected to come under heavy lobbying by the French, British, and Germans to back Lagarde.

Obama will need to balance a desire to honor pledges to developing nations that such jobs would no longer be decided in rich nations’ back-room deals against the chance of America’s losing the World Bank’s top job when it next comes open.

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