Not much is known about the World Bank outside of the Bank itself, small pockets inside the White House, on Capitol Hill, and a few dots around the globe. Later today, with all likelihood, it will be announced that Dartmouth University President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who was nominated last month by President Obama, will get the post. However, a funny thing could happen on the way to the forum. There is a strong contender by the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance Minister and former No. 2 at the bank after more than two decades there.
The vote is going to come down to three points:
1) Will the vote be by consensus or ballot?
2) Will the EU bloc hold?
3) Will the BRIC bloc hold?
If the vote is by consensus, Dr. Kim is a virtual shoe in. If voting is secret, all bets are off. The first voting bloc people will question is the BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Russia is on the record for supporting the American choice, but Russia is Russia. And with Vladimir Putin set to reclaim his perch as President of Russia in exactly three weeks, who can really say what they will do?
The key, however, is looking at the EU voting bloc. With Christine Lagarde being selected last July, France has had five of the last eight IMF Managing Directors. Moreover, Lagarde’s term does not end until 2016. With all the talk about ending the US-Euro reign on the heads of the World Bank and IMF, France and its 4.21 percentage vote may be the first to go that route, voting for Ngozi, knowing that it likely won’t get another pick for some time.
The big question domestically, is what will this mean politically for President Obama if he does not get his pick? Conventional wisdom says that Congressional Republicans will say that it proves Obama’s pandering around the world fell on deaf ears and that he is weak internationally. But there is a line of thought that says House and Senate GOP want Ngozi to prevail because then the White House would no longer have a direct hand at the World Bank.
If Ngozi does prevail, it would show a new dominance of females on the world stage. Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005, Lagarde heads up the IMF, Pratibha Patil is President of India, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is President of Argentina, and Hilary Clinton is Secretary of State. It should be noted that while not public information, Hilary did turn down the World Bank post.
Only time will tell. The results could be minutes or hours away.