Christine Lagarde has announced her candidacy for the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, potentially becoming the first woman to hold the position.
"I'm announcing my candidacy," Ms Lagarde said at a news conference in Paris. "The election is many days to come and there are other candidates, and I'm looking forward to a good debate between us."
Ms Lagarde, 55, has already led a distinguished career as the finance minister of France, the first woman ever to hold the position in a G8 country.
Fluent in English, personable and a former chairman of Baker & McKenzie, the US law firm, Ms Lagarde has been viewed as a safe pair of hands as the IMF negotiates the eurozone debt crisis.
Speculation has mounted recently over who will succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director who is currently awaiting trial in New York charged with an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid.
Mr Strauss-Kahn resigned on Wednesday last week, leaving his deputy John Lipsky to fill the position until the fund decides on a new chief in June.
Ms Lagarde will square off against Agustín Carstens, the Mexican central bank governor. Mexico's government has sought international support for Mr Carstens, a former IMF deputy managing director.
Ms Lagarde has attracted considerable support from European countries, which control the largest proportion of votes at the IMF, with the European Union, the UK, Germany and Italy having publicly declared support for her candidacy.
The UAE, which holds 0.27 per cent of the votes at the IMF, has yet to declare support for a candidate.
However, some governments in emerging markets have been unhappy over the possibility of a European again running the IMF.
Since the fund's creation in 1945, the role of managing director has by custom always gone to a European and the head of the World Bank has always gone to an American.
IMF executive directors representing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa this week urged the fund to abandon "the obsolete unwritten convention that requires that the head of the IMF be necessarily from Europe."
Speaking during the conference, Ms Lagarde dismissed her nationality as a factor in her suitability for the job, saying: "Being a European shouldn't be a plus, it shouldn't be a minus either."
Attention now turns to the US, which holds 16.8 per cent of the votes, decides which candidate to throw its backing behind.