Mexican Central Bank Governor and IMF-contender Agustin Carstens rebuked his European counterparts on Thursday for reneging on their promise to back a non-European to head the fund and vowed to give emerging powers more say if elected.
Speaking in Beijing where he was seeking support for his IMF candidacy, Carstens said Europe was over represented in the IMF and stopped short of accusing his European colleagues of supporting his rival, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, based on her nationality.
Regretfully, this time around, Europe didn't embrace the spirit of having a merit-based process, Carstens said.
The fact that Europe decided to support Lagarde even before she was formally presented as a candidate, and even before all the candidates were announced, that certainly shows they are not (assessing) the merits of the candidates, he said.
Lagarde is widely seen as the front-runner to replace former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn after he was arrested last month for sexual assault charges, which he denies.
Carstens said while he could understand Europe's desire to elect one of their own to help solve the region's debt crisis, the time had come to give emerging economies more power to run international financial organizations.
He described his meetings with China's Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and Finance Minister Xie Xuren as fruitful and frank, and called for China to play a broader role in the fund to match its role as the world's second-largest economy.
He declined to comment on whether Beijing supported his candidacy, however.
I certainly highlighted the need for emerging markets to have a much stronger presence at the institution, he said.
The steps that have been taken so far are timid, and we need to stress further reforms in such a way so there is more even representation.
Carstens' visit to Beijing follows one by Lagarde last week when she also promised to give China and other emerging powers more influence.
China has not said publicly said whether it supports Lagarde, but it has joined other big emerging economies in demanding that the IMF and other international financial bodies give greater heed to their demands.
With Greece on the verge of a debt default, the leadership of the next IMF chief will be put to test immediately.
Plans to rescue Greece hit a setback this week after euro zone ministers failed to agree on how private holders of Greek debt should share the costs of a new bailout.
The IMF board is due to choose the next managing director by June 30. The United States and the European Union hold almost enough votes jointly to choose the winning candidate.
Still, it is important for candidates to win support from large developing countries. In 2000, the Clinton administration blocked Germany's Caio Koch-Weser after his bid for the IMF top job failed to get broad support beyond Europe.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qung, Beijing staff; Editing by Robert Birsel)