WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has emerged as the leading candidate to take over leadership of the International Monetary Fund, observers said.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF managing director Wednesday in the wake of his arrest on allegations of sexual assault on a New York hotel maid in his luxury suite.
One former IMF official said Strauss-Kahn's downfall may tip the scale in Lagarde's favor, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"What's happened with Strauss-Kahn underscores how great it would be to have a woman in the role," said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former IMF chief economist now a professor at Harvard University.
If she gets the post, Lagarde would be the first woman to run the IMF.
But Rogoff said gender was only part of Lagarde's appeal to lead the Washington-based organization.
"She is enormously impressive, politically astute and a strong personality," he told the Times. "At finance meetings all over the world, she is treated practically like a rock star."
Her main competition, analysts say, is Kemal Dervis, a former finance minister of Turkey. Dervis is credited with saving the Turkish economy after a devastating financial crisis in 2001, in part by securing an IMF loan.