Finance ministers narrow options for eurozone bailout chief

Eurozone finance ministers today thinned down the options to replace the European Stability Mechanism’s managing director from four to three, but fell short of selecting a candidate to replace Klaus Regling after his mandate ends in October.

According to a note sent to eurozone capitals and seen by POLITICO, the process is meant to deliver a winner by a process of elimination. Ministers cast secret ballots, and Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe informs the minister whose candidate received the least support, with the expectation that they’ll withdraw from the race.

That’s what happened in the first round of voting with the Dutch bid of Menno Snel, whom the Netherlands then withdrew. But in the second round, Italy refused to back down after Marco Buti turned out to be the least favorite among the three standing candidates — Buti, Portugal’s João Leão, and Luxembourg’s Pierre Gramegna.

A successful candidate needs 80 percent support, with votes weighted by a country’s share of capital in the ESM — giving France and Germany a veto.

Italy, holding nearly 18 percent, could be outvoted if the great majority of eurozone countries rally behind one candidate. But it could also form a blocking minority by forming an alliance. The question is what Italy thinks it may gain on other fronts by holding on to a doomed candidacy.

In any event, the campaign will play out in the next few weeks. Donohoe paused the contest Monday evening and will hold further consultations ahead of June 16, when the ESM’s board of governors meets to elect the next managing director, according to an EU official.