France’s Lagarde takes IMF campaign to Twitter

By Catherine Bremer

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Christine Lagarde took time out from a week of globe-trotting Thursday to take her campaign to be the new IMF chief online, spending an hour tweeting to the general public on her merits for the job.

France’s finance minister, the favourite to run the International Monetary Fund after Dominique Strauss-Kahn quit the post last month over a sex assault scandal, said her ability to mediate and build consensus qualified her for the job.

“My ability to include, to build consensus, to mediate when needed, to give confidence and to reach out to governments,” Lagarde tweeted, in response to a question posted online on why she deserves the top job at the international lender.

Lagarde, who returned to Paris Thursday from a tour to promote her candidacy that took her to Brazil, India and China, stuck to her IMF campaign and did not answer questions on other issues, such as a new bailout plan for Greece.

She reiterated the importance of diversity in the IMF, where emerging market powers resent Europe’s hold on the top job, and said she would improve relations between the Fund and the G20.

Asked how big the IMF’s role should be, compared to the euro zone’s, in resolving the bloc’s debt crisis, she said its weight was one-third next to the euro zone’s two-thirds. “IMF role is key to monitor implementation of the programme,” she tweeted.

Lagarde is an active Facebook and Twitter user and has created a special new Twitter site for her IMF candidacy.

Lagarde, who heads to Portugal on Friday and Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the weekend, will learn the outcome on Friday of an examination by three top French judges of allegations she abused her authority in 2008 when she granted a large payout to a prominent businessman to settle a legal case.

Judicial sources say the judges will likely ask for more time to consider whether the case warrants opening a formal inquiry, meaning the affair will continue to hang over Lagarde’s IMF bid.

The IMF’s deadline for candidates is Friday. It plans to pick its new managing director on June 30.

Most of Europe, and the European Union, is standing behind Lagarde, who lacks Strauss-Kahn’s economic vision but is a deft negotiator with a good understanding of today’s economic issues. Paris hopes she will be backed by Beijing and Washington.

On Thursday, the African Union said it would like to see a non-European in the position, preferably an African.

On Wednesday, Colombia came out as the first major Latin American country to publicly back Lagarde’s main rival, Mexican Central Bank chief Agustin Carstens, for the job.

Lagarde gave no clues as to what her policy would be as IMF chief on euro zone bailouts, although she replied to an online question about whether Greece should exit the euro zone by saying that idea was “hazardous and unpredictable.”

“We must keep the euro zone together and invent sustainable solution,” she tweeted.

Asked by one cybernaut what she saw for the IMF’s future, she replied with a winking emoticon and four exclamation marks. (Reporting by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Dan Grebler)