For the record…

Chronicling the ‘open, merit-based, and transparent process’ thus far

It struck me that in the event Kristalina Georgieva becomes the next IMF managing director (MD) and serves out her two terms, that, ten years from now, when there will once again be calls to end the gentleman’s agreement, we might find ourselves wondering how exactly another European got the job at the time. By what ‘open, merit-based and transparent process’ did the powers-that-be decide that, across their entire membership, the former World Bank CEO from Bulgaria was the most qualified and distinguished candidate (“without taking geographic preferences into account”, of course)?

As most decisions thus far have taken place behind closed doors with only occasional crumbs of information coming through, mostly from a few ardent reporters’ twitter feeds, this is an attempt at establishing a record of the step-by-step ‘open, merit-based, and transparent’ process leading up to Kristalina’s nomination by the European Union, based on public reporting and the, albeit sparse, official information made available (reflecting Brussels’s location in the centre of the known IMF universe, all times are CEST).

  • 2 July: Aaaaand we’re off! Lagarde announces her European Central Bank presidency nomination and relinquishes her responsibilities as IMF MD during the nomination period.
  • 8 July: Bloomberg reports European finance ministers say it is a “priority” for them to put another European in place, jointly presented by the EU and, in the words of French politician Bruno Le Maire, “without useless rivalries” (erm, should we just stop there?)
  • 12 July: The day the Dutch government demonstrates how aggrieved they really feel about being side-lined in the negotiations for top EU positions:
    • Dutch government nominates its former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and kicks off its lobbying campaign for his candidacy with key governments;
    • Dutch prime minister Rutte softens his stance on US requests to provide military support in the Strait of Hormuz and Syria ahead of his visit to the White House the following week.
  • 16 July: Lagarde submits resignation as IMF MD effective from 12 September, after being confirmed as new ECB president.
  • 19 July: José Antonio Ocampo, former nominee in 2012 for World Bank president, with “experience in all the areas that might be considered most relevant for the IMF Managing Director post”, publishes his vision for reforming the IMF toward a more effective and inclusive future – to deafening silence from officials…
  • 23 July: Meanwhile, European officials are reportedly at odds over the IMF leadership nomination process, with a non-official list of candidates including Dijsselbloem; Mario Centeno, Portuguese finance minister and current Eurogroup chief; Nadia Calvino, Spanish finance minister; Olli Rehn, central bank governor of Finland and former European commissioner for the eurozone, Mark Carney, the current governor of the Bank of England — a Canadian citizen who also has Irish and English passports, Kristalina Georgieva, who is currently serving as chief executive of the World Bank, and Mario Draghi, the outgoing ECB president. For Georgieva to win, an amendment to the MD’s age limit would need to be made to the IMF’s by-laws.
  • 25 July: Draghi rules himself out.
  • 26 July: The day the process officially starts, according to the IMF’s board (so everything that has happened so far doesn’t officially count?)
    • The IMF executive board initiates an “open, merit-based, and transparent” selection process for IMF MD, “similar to the one used in recent rounds” (is that a hint?), with a deadline for nominations set on 6 September.
    • Europeans put out a list of five candidates for the EU nominee: Calvino, Centeno, Georgieva, Dijsselbloem, and Rehn.
  • 29 July: The day progress was made…and reversed…
    • 14:25: Senior officials claim field has been narrowed down to three, Dijsselbloem, Georgieva and Rehn.
    • 17:05: France denies whittling the field down to three, other officials claim they were told other candidates were stepping down.
  • 31 July: Le Maire asks Germany for help in coordinating EU IMF leadership bid, while Dijsselbloem visits Madrid and Athens on a charm offensive
  • 1 August: The day the UK considered joining in…
    • 14:00: European finance ministers hold a call on IMF leadership, during which none of the five originally nominated candidates withdraws, so they agree to hold a vote at 8:00 the next day between Dijsselbloem, Rehn, Calvino, Centeno, and Georgieva.
    • 14:21: UK asks for more time to consider whether they want to propose a candidate and are given until 20:00 to decide – with new Boris Johnson-led government reportedly considering former UK Chancellor George Osborne as the UK nominee.
    • 20:40: UK misses the extended deadline they just asked for…
    • 21:01: Centeno tweets he’s out, leaving Calvino, Dijsselbloem, Georgieva, and Rehn
  • 2 August: Judgement day (for IMF legitimacy?) The day chaos takes over and those interested in the ‘open, merit-based, transparent’ process are reduced to relying on Twitter for information.
    • 9:21: UK tells France it doesn’t approve of a vote taking place, with not enough time to consider merits of candidates, chooses to abstain.
    • 12:10: (presumably after a first round of voting) Nadia Calvino tweets she’s out, leaving Dijsselbloem, Rehn and Georgieva as the three remaining candidates.
    • 12:47: Reported pressure for either Rehn or Dijsselbloem to step back.
    • 14:26: A new vote is expected to take place at 15:00.
    • 15:00: Rehn steps out of the race, leaving Dijsselbloem and Georgieva.
    • 15:42: “All eyes now on France. Will Macron back a non-eurozone candidate for the IMF (sacre bleu!) over a Dutch socialist whose prime minister Mark Rutte is in alliance with En Marche in the European Parliament….?” -@MehreenKhn
    • 16:23: Calls begin taking place between heads of government rather than finance ministries, with Merkel lobbying Macron to support Dijsselbloem.
    • 18:35: A conference call is scheduled at 18:45 to establish final result.
    • 19:07: “Scratch that” – conference call is delayed to 19:30.
    • 19:18: Two officials say there is a “clear winner” (without much clarity).
    • 19:33: Further delays
    • 20:18: Aaand the results are in! Dijsselbloem (support from EU states representing 43% of the EU’s population, and 44% of EU members countries’ voting shares), Georgieva (57% population, 56% of countries), meaning both fail to meet the threshold of EU’s qualified majority voting system (which requires candidates to gain the support of 65% population, 55% of countries), which was agreed as a “benchmark” for the process the night before…
    • 20:19: France says ‘qualified majority’ standard is just “guidance”, not a rule (what even is a rule?).
    • 20:22: Sweden asks to use country weightings of the IMF executive board, rather than EU country weightings, which would favour Dijsselbloem, claiming this was agreed the night before in case of deadlock (eerm shouldn’t the rest of the IMF board have a say then using that logic?)
    • 20:27: France disputes this interpretation, and says Georgieva is clear winner (i.e. there is no ‘deadlock’).
    • 20:44: “Channelling some sanity on a Friday night, Bruno Le Maire has complained he will be missing dinner with his wife tonight if this carries on any longer. *But* he wants to come back at 22:00 tonight” -@MehreenKhn
    • 20:49: Debate around the use “benchmark” breaks out – is it a ‘guide’? is it a ‘rule’? (is it a bird, is a plane?!)
    • 21:03: Yet another conference call is scheduled to take place at 22:00 (which circle of hell are we in exactly?)
    • 21:19: Dijsselbloem tweets his defeat… Congratulates Georgieva (thank the Lord)
    • 23:02: Aaaaand we’ve come full circle, Kristalina tweets she’s honoured to be nominated as candidate for the role of IMF MD and relinquishes her responsibilities as World Bank CEO during the nomination period…

Cut-to the presumed future: No other government in the world nominating their own candidate, (or even worse, Osborne being nominated by the UK), the IMF board insisting there’s nothing to see here – please stop staring – and Georgieva duly being appointed.

So that’s the ‘open, merit-based and transparent’ story of how a Bulgarian economist became the head of one of the most powerful international public institutions in the world.


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