David Blackburn

Lagarde three giant steps closer as Russia, China and the US back her IMF bid

The 24 members of the IMF board are meeting to see if they can agree that Christine Lagarde should be the organisation’s next leader without a formal vote. Lagarde has already gained formidable backing. 40 per cent of the membership had indicated its support before today’s meetings, while her closest competitor, Mexican Augustin Carstens, had mustered just 12 per cent of the IMF’s votes.

The remaining 48 per cent is now concentrating behind Lagarde’s candidacy. Her popularity extends beyond Europe into the vital emerging markets.  Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin gave his signature today, saying that he hopes she will ‘secure reform of the IMF in the interests of developing world.’ And China pledged its ‘quite full support’ late last night. Finally, the US broke its self-imposed silence this morning and backed Lagarde. Those last two should prove decisive. For her part, Lagarde is very confident of victory. With Gallic insouciance, she blithely told Le Figaro that it ‘would be great’ if her win was ‘announced before the 20:00hrs news’.

The timing could not be better for the embattled President Sarkozy. Earlier today, socialist Martine Aubry declared her candidacy to run in next year’s presidential election. She will now have to share those crucial first hours of news coverage with Lagarde, whatever the outcome of today’s meeting.

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