French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde on Wednesday took her campaign to lead the International Monetary Fund directly to the IMF officials who will choose between her and her Mexican rival.
Lagarde is up against Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens, who has been billed as the candidate of the world's developing economies, which have never before been represented in the position of IMF managing director.
The two are vying to replace France's Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned from the position in May to face trial in New York on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. He has denied the allegations.
Lagarde -- who would be the first woman to head the powerful multilateral institution -- arrived in Washington late Tuesday.
She is expected to visit IMF headquarters on Wednesday for a series of bilateral meetings. In the evening, she is scheduled to meet US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
On Thursday, she is to audition before the 24 members of the IMF's executive board, who must decide on a successor to Strauss-Kahn by the end of June.
"During their informal meetings with the board, each candidate will present their views on issues facing the Fund and the membership, and the executive directors will be able to exchange views with the candidates," the IMF said earlier this week.
Carstens, a 53-year-old economist and former IMF official, presented his case before the executive board on Tuesday, pledging to bolster the legitimacy of the 187-nation fund if selected.
The Mexican central banker called for the IMF's governance structure to be more representative of emerging-market countries, which would in turn contribute more to the fund.
The redistribution of quotas -- the sums provided to the IMF by its member countries -- must continue "in favor of emerging and developing countries," he told the board, according to an IMF statement.
Carstens expressed satisfaction with the three-hour meeting as he left IMF headquarters in Washington.
"It was a fairly long meeting, very orderly, in which I was allowed to express my points of view on the Fund and the risks it faces," he told reporters.
Lagarde, 55, a lawyer by training, has declared that she believes the IMF should be "responsive, cooperative, legitimate and even-handed."
Lagarde is widely seen as the front-runner. But that has not stopped the two contenders from touring the world to promote their candidacies.
Since May 30, Lagarde has visited Brazil, India, China and Portugal -- where she attended the annual meeting of the African Development Bank -- followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Since June 1, Carstens has campaigned in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, China and Japan, as well as Washington.
This marks the first time that both candidates for IMF managing director have undertaken such intense campaigns.
In 2007, Strauss-Kahn was the first candidate who visited multiple capitals other than Washington. His Europe-backed campaign gave him a decisive advantage over his Czech rival Josef Tosovsky.
The executive board will aim to reach a decision "by consensus," according to the IMF, but in case of deadlock it will decide by majority vote.
The board is scheduled to formally discuss the two candidates on June 28, and it must complete the selection process by June 30 at the latest.
The board consists of one woman and 23 men. Seven of the board's members are from the European Union.
Since 1946, under a tacit agreement between the United States and Europe, the leadership of the IMF has always gone to a European, while the top job at the World Bank has always gone to an American.