May 26th, 2011
03:26 AM GMT
Hong Kong, China (CNN) – So the gloves are off.
The four BRIC countries plus South Africa have joined forces to oppose the automatic choice of a European as head of the IMF.
This is significant step.
For the first time there is a unified voice from the emerging world to match the voice of Europe, now rallying behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
From a gaggle of un-coordinated statements from emerging economies over the past two weeks, comes a crystal clear - and powerful - voice.
A message jointly signed by China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa. They wrote: "We believe that, if the Fund is to have credibility and legitimacy, its Managing Director should be selected after broad consultation with the membership. It should result in the most competent person being appointed as Managing Director, regardless of his or her nationality. We also believe that adequate representation of emerging market and developing members in the Fund's management is critical to its legitimacy and effectiveness."
But the ball is still in their court. The next step is a candidate the emerging economies can rally behind.
And reports are now coming out, quoting unnamed Indian officials, that a candidate could be named in the next couple of days.
They will have to be quick. June 10 is the closing day for nominations and that candidate needs support from across the emerging markets spectrum, not just the five mentioned but emerging powerhouses like Turkey and Indonesia as well.
If the emerging markets are serious about challenging the status quo - and they are giving every intention that they are serious - they have to have a single candidate. Without one a European candidate will likely breeze through.
A lot will depend on the response of the U.S. The acting chief at the IMF, American John Lipsky, has already said Ms Lagarde would be an "excellent" choice. To be fair, he may also say that about others too. The U.S. remains silent but if history is a guide it will put its weight behind Europe.
Ian Bremmer, chairman of the Eurasia Group, told WBT that he has no doubt the U.S. will support Europe. Remember, the U.S. gets support from Europe for having a U.S. citizen at the head of the IMF's sister institution, the World Bank.
But whatever happens, history has already be made. Five powerful emerging economies have spoken in one voice for change. Ignore China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa at your peril.
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