September 6, 2019 / 9:16 PM / 14 days ago

Georgieva closes in on top IMF job as no challengers seen - sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva was expected to be the only candidate considered to lead the International Monetary Fund as a nomination deadline drew to a close on Friday, two people familiar with the process said.

FILE PHOTO: Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank CEO and European candidate to become the new head of the IMF, attend a meeting with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire (not seen) at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The World Bank chief executive’s only known potential challenger to be the next IMF managing director, former British finance minister George Osborne, has opted not to run, the sources said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially sought backing for Osborne to lead the IMF. But a senior UK government source confirmed on Friday that Britain now supports Georgieva, who was nominated by European Union countries.

She now has a clear path to assume leadership of the Washington-based multilateral lender in early October, barring an unexpected, last-minute nomination before the 11:59 p.m. EDT deadline on Friday (0359 GMT Saturday).

She would take over at a time when the U.S.-China trade war threatens global growth and financial market pressures are mounting on vulnerable countries including Argentina, which the Fund bailed out last year with a $57 billion loan program, its largest ever.

An IMF spokesman declined to comment on expected nominees, adding that the Fund’s secretary will reveal candidates only after they confirm their intention to seek the position.

That means the name of a secret nominee who decides against running would not be revealed.

The candidacy of 66-year-old Georgieva took a major step forward on Thursday as IMF member countries voted to remove an age limit for managing director. By-laws had required managing directors be under 65 when taking office and prohibited them from serving past their 70th birthday.

Georgieva would replace Christine Lagarde, 63, a former French finance minister who is departing after leading the IMF for eight years to head the European Central Bank.

The IMF board intends to decide on the next managing director by Oct. 4, two weeks before the World Bank and IMF annual meetings.

The IMF has been run by a European since its founding at the end of World War Two.

Georgieva was nominated by EU countries in August as a compromise after deep disagreements over other candidates and multiple rounds of voting in the French-led process. She has held numerous senior European Commission posts, including budget commissioner, and has deep knowledge of emerging market countries served by the World Bank.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who controls the largest voting bloc on the IMF board, has spoken highly of Georgieva’s accomplishments at the World Bank. [L2N24J11B]

Reporting by David Lawder; Additional reporting by William Schomberg in London; Editing by David Gregorio

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