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Bank of Israel's Fischer faces challenges in his bid for IMF role

By Irene Chapple
A May 25, 2011 file photo of Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel.
A May 25, 2011 file photo of Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel.
  • Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer announces candidacy for the IMF's top job
  • The job came open after the arrest of former head Dominique Strauss-Kahn
  • Fischer faces obstacles, including his age and expectations the job will go to a European
  • Fischer said the job is "an extraordinary and unplanned opportunity."

(CNN) -- Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer has announced his candidacy for the International Monetary Fund's top job, but faces a few obstacles.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde is seen as the front-runner, with Mexican central bank head Agustin Carstens also a contender.

Fischer, 67, entered the race with a statement saying: "An extraordinary and unplanned opportunity has come up, possibly one that will not come again, to be a candidate for the head of the IMF."

"After much deliberation," he said, "I have decided I want to pursue the opportunity. This is despite the process being complicated and despite the possible barriers."

IMF requirements bar the appointment of any managing director 65 or older.

Fischer, a U.S. citizen born in the African nation of Zambia, is also facing political winds, with expectations the role will go to a European, in part because of the region's historic dominance in the role and its ongoing financial crisis. The IMF, in conjunction with eurozone countries, has contributed to bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The IMF did not respond to emailed requests for comment Sunday. The job became open following the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on May 14 for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid in his hotel room. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned within days, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Sever Plocker, economics editor of Israel's Yediot Ahronot, said he did not believe the age limitation would be a problem, though politics could be. Plocker said he hoped the IMF would look at Fischer's "economics excellence rather than the passport."

Nominations for the job closed Friday, with selection expected to be complete by June 30.

In an interview with CNN's Richard Quest last month, before becoming a candidate, Fischer said he thought "It would be a great honor to be considered."

In the interview Fischer said the argument a European was needed to deal with the European financial crisis "seems to be a non-sequitur, it certainly wasn't an agreement that was invoked in the Asian crisis or the Latin American crisis."

Fischer was First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF from September 1994 until August 2001, before becoming special adviser to the Managing Director from September 2001 to January 2002. He has been governor of the Bank of Israel since May 2005.

Fischer's statement said he was bidding for the job because of his experience with the IMF, during which he gained "practical experience and deep understanding of the global economy and accompanied many countries in their economic development."

The head of Kazakhstan's central bank, told CNN Friday he is withdrawing his bid to head the IMF.

Grigory Marchenko said it is "more or less obvious" that the job will go to Lagarde.