Balance of power
"If this balance [of economic power] needs to be questioned, it needs to be done for both [the World Bank and IMF] institutions at the same time"
Christine Lagarde, France's economy minister
Developing countries argued that always appointing a European no longer reflects the true balance of economic power since the rise of countries such as China and India.
There is no rule that the head of the IMF, currently Rodrigo de Rato, must be from Europe.
However, in practice the role has always gone to a European since the inception of the organisation in 1945, while the United States nominates the head of the World Bank.
The US indicated last week it would not challenge Europe's grip on the IMF captaincy since it had just picked Robert Zoellick, an American, to lead the World Bank.
Christine Lagarde, France's economy minister, said the opening of the IMF post to worldwide competition should be in tandem with a similar move by the World Bank.
The backing for Strauss-Kahn is a victory for Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, who has been strongly lobbying for his candidacy despite resistance from Britain.
|Strauss-Kahn is an advocate of social|
democratic economics [AFP]
Britain and the IMF board suggested on Monday that the post should be open to all candidates this time after the current managing director steps down in October.
Alistair Darling, Britain's finance minister, said on Tuesday that Strauss-Kahn would be a credible candidate but that he wanted to see others.
"The British government believes that there has to be an open and transparent competition," he said.
Strauss-Kahn, 58, is a multilingual advocate of social democratic economics.
France already holds three key international economic posts, with Pascal Lamy at the World Trade Organisation, Jean-Claude Trichet at the European Central Bank and Jean Lemierre at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Out of the nine IMF managing directors so far, three have been French and one was German. There was also one Spaniard, one Dutchman, one Belgian and two Swedes.