WASHINGTON (AFP) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday (Jan 21) opens formal nominations for the next term of managing director, with incumbent Christine Lagarde seen as the leading candidate despite possibly facing a trial in France.
The IMF said nominations for the five-year term to run the global crisis bank beginning in July will close on Feb 10.
After a review of the candidates, the IMF executive board aims to have decided on a candidate by March 3.
Ms Lagarde, the former French finance minister who has overseen the IMF through the challenging euro zone bailouts and is widely respected in the global financial community, has not said directly that she wants to renew her position.
But she said several times in the past year that she is open to it.
Asked about staying on at the annual IMF global meeting in Lima, Peru, last October, she said: "I'm certainly open to the fact that it would not be my last annual meeting. But this is not for me to decide."
She already has the support of Britain.
British Finance Minister George Osborne on Thursday tweeted that he was "delighted to nominate @Lagarde for (the) new term as head of IMF".
He described her as "an outstanding leader with vision and acumen to steer global economy in years ahead".
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 win came amid criticisms that the IMF's top job should not be locked down by a European, as it has since the institution was created in 1944.
Ms Lagarde's renewal also faces a personal legal challenge: She could stand trial in France over her role in a banking scandal that predates her arrival at the IMF.
Last December, investigating judges placed her under formal investigation in the long-running affair of Bernard Tapie, who received a substantial state payout for his dispute with a state bank during her time as finance minister.
Ms Lagarde has said she would fight the trial order, and the IMF executive board at the time reiterated its confidence in her.
On Wednesday, the French press reported that Paris could support Ivory Coast-born French banker Tidjane Thiam as a replacement if she were not to run.
But Mr Thiam told US TV channel CNBC that he would not speculate on taking the job and that he was focused on his position as chief executive at Credit Suisse.
He told CNBC that Ms Lagarde had done "a phenomenal job" at the IMF.