The nomination of Christine Lagarde to become the next president of the European Central Bank means that the International Monetary Fund needs a new leader. Historically, the post has gone to a European, the result of a postwar gentlemen's agreement among trans-Atlantic leaders that the head of the IMF would be a European while the head of the World Bank would be an American. The last time the deal was challenged — a year ago, when the head of the World Bank stepped down — tradition prevailed and David Malpass, a former U.S. Treasury official, assumed the post. Europe is likely to retain its grip on the IMF, but it is time to reconsider that agreement.
Lagarde was named managing director of the IMF in 2011 when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the institution's head, was forced to step down over a sex scandal. She had stints in French Cabinets, serving as minister of finance, of commerce, and of agriculture and fisheries. Her tenure is widely considered to have been a success, having helped navigate the Greek financial crisis and maintaining the IMF's credibility at a time of increasing strain in global finance. The fact that she is a woman has also been helpful, putting a face on and providing momentum to the global effort to empower women.
The campaign to succeed Lagarde will not begin until after she is confirmed as ECB president, which will likely occur this fall. Officially, nationality is irrelevant and the process will be "open, merit-based and transparent." Candidates will be nominated to replace her and the 24-member executive board will create a shortlist of three to interview before deciding.