A group of former World Bank officials has written a letter backing Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be its next president.
Traditionally the post is given to the candidate put forward by the US, which this time is Dr Jim Yong Kim.
But in an open letter, 35 former economists and managers said the Bank should choose the next chief on merit.
Another group of economists this week signed a petition backing Colombia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo.
This is the first time the World Bank has had to choose between candidates since its creation more than 60 years ago.
The executive board of the Bank has to choose between Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former finance minister of Colombia, and Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the US.
The Bank is holding interviews next week and plans to select the successor to outgoing president Robert Zoellick by 20 April, when it starts its spring meetings with the IMF.
The three-way fight is attracting increasingly passionate comment from candidates’ supporters. It has also shone a light on the way the World Bank chooses its head.
The US, which is the Bank’s largest shareholder, has always picked the Bank’s president. It, Europe and Japan have 54% of the votes.
Under an informal arrangement, in return, Europe appoints a European as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the Bank’s sister institution. It is currently run by Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde.
Emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this system and are pushing for change.
The leaders of Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa recently called for a review of that weighted voting system.
The nations, sometimes referred to as the Brics countries, are working to chose a joint candidate, according to the Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega.