Christine Lagarde announces bid for second IMF term

Ms Christine Lagarde announced that she will run for a second term at the head of the IMF.
Ms Christine Lagarde announced that she will run for a second term at the head of the IMF.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Ms Christine Lagarde announced on Friday (Jan 22) that she will run for a second term at the head of the International Monetary Fund, after winning strong backing from across Europe.

"Yes, I am running for a second mandate," the former French finance minister confirmed in an interview with France 2 television.

"I've had the honour of receiving support since the opening of the procedure," she said, pointing in particular to endorsements from France, Britain, Germany and China.

British finance minister George Osborne on Thursday tweeted that he was "delighted to nominate" her for a new term. He described the 60-year-old as "an outstanding leader with (the) vision and acumen to steer (the) global economy in years ahead".

The German finance ministry said Ms Lagarde had proven to be a "far-sighted and successful crisis manager in difficult times".

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew refrained from a formal endorsement, but expressed strong approval of her performance. "I think she has done a great job," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Ms Lagarde noted that the United States customarily waits until the end of the election process before backing a candidate, but pointed to recent expressions of support from Washington.

"The words of the US Vice-President (Joe Biden) the other day in his public intervention were very glowing - almost embarrassing - and the treasury secretary has said he hopes to enjoy working with me," she told France 2. "I think it is difficult for the United States to do much more this stage."

With her term coming to an end in July, the IMF formally began accepting nominations on Thursday for who will guide the global crisis lender for the next five years.

After leading the IMF through one of its most difficult challenges - the rescue of the eurozone from meltdown - Ms Lagarde has garnered deep respect in the global financial community.

Her plans to run again nonetheless face a potential hurdle: she could stand trial in France over her role in a banking scandal that predates her arrival at the IMF.

In December, judges placed her under formal investigation in the long-running affair of former Adidas boss Bernard Tapie, who received a large state payout for his dispute with a state bank during her time as finance minister.

Ms Lagarde has said she will fight the trial order, and the IMF executive board at the time reiterated its confidence in her. She told France 2 on Friday that she had "acted in the interest of the state, conforming to the law" and that her conscience was clear.

"I hope that the justice authorities, at the end of the procedure - as long and painful as it is - will agree," she added.

No other names have so far been touted as potential candidates, but the IMF will be taking nominations through Feb 10 with a view to its executive board making a decision by March 3.

Ms Lagarde easily won a contest with several developing country candidates to take over the IMF in 2011 as Europe was sinking deep into economic crisis.

But her victory came amid criticism that the IMF's top job should not be locked down by a European, as it has since the institution was created in 1944.