European governments have quickly rallied around the candidacy of Christine Lagarde, finance minister of France, for the top job at the IMF. For obvious reasons, this is not popular in the capital cities of major developing countries playing a more important role on the world stage.
For more than 60 years now convention, rather than any written rules, has dictated that the appointment of heads of the Bretton Woods institutions has been controlled by the traditional global powers. The US has provided the chief of the World Bank and Europe has provided the head of the IMF. These “conventions” emerged and were entrenched during a period when these two broad groupings controlled the global economy, and polity.
That is much less clear today. The medium-term future of the world economy is unlikely to be scripted only by these two players. Before the emergency exit of Dominique Strauss-Kahn had rendered the choice of the next head of the IMF an urgent matter, it was common to hear voices from developed countries suggesting that the next person to be in charge could and should be someone from the developing world. There is certainly no shortage of suitable candidates with sufficient international experience and knowledge of the workings of international finance.