The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank building in Beijing, China. Photo by: Max12Max / CC BY-SA

WASHINGTON — The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is accepting nominations for president in the first full election process since the bank was established, and there’s already one candidate — China-nominated, sitting AIIB President Jin Liqun, to a second term.

Other multilateral development banks have processes that are open in theory, but in practice have always had a leader from a specific country — an American has always led the World Bank, for example. The first test of whether AIIB will follow a similar pattern will be if Jin has challengers in the race to lead the China-based institution. That will be clear next month when the list of nominees is published.

“This is the first time that the bank has conducted the process. … So getting that right is really important.”

— Danny Alexander, vice president and corporate secretary, AIIB

“Our articles of agreement require an open, transparent, merit-based process and the rules reflect that,” Danny Alexander, AIIB’s vice president and corporate secretary, told Devex. The process will “allow all to be treated equally and fairly,” he added.

As the employee responsible for overseeing the process, Alexander said he can’t comment on the “likely results,” and is unable to say if any other candidates have been put forward. But he added that in all MDBs, “shareholders have an important role to play and that’s reflected in presidential elections.”

The nomination window will close on June 18, and at that point, AIIB will release the list of nominees along with some basic information about them. The candidate must be nominated by a member of the bank’s board of governors and be a national of one of AIIB’s regional members.

The rules for the election of the president, which the board of governors adopted in December, also require that the candidate has “a track record of executive leadership, impeccable integrity, and familiarity with infrastructure and international development challenges, particularly in Asia.”

If there are more than three candidates in June, the board will narrow the field and create a shortlist of the top three candidates. Those individuals will have an opportunity to meet with members of the board and will present their ideas and answer questions during the annual meeting, which will be held virtually on July 28.

Normally, the governors would have the opportunity to interview candidates face-to-face, but with the meetings now taking place online, there will instead be a virtual interview process and electronic voting, Alexander said.

A candidate must receive approval from two-thirds of the board to win. If no clear winner emerges after the first round, the field will be narrowed to the top two vote-getters and a second vote will take place.

There are also procedures for the unlikely case in which no candidate is able to get the required number of votes through multiple rounds. The president will serve a five-year term beginning on Jan. 16, 2021.

These elections are a bit different than the first ones which elected Jin to his first term. Jin had previously been designated by the founders as AIIB’s leader but was formally elected at the inaugural meeting, which signaled the first day of the bank’s existence, Alexander said.

“It was a different situation then,” he said. “This is the first time that the bank has conducted the process. … So getting that right is really important.”

This annual meeting, including the board meeting, will also be online, which has been a bit of a headache and has made the process more complex, but AIIB has a nonresident board of directors and is used to running virtual meetings for that smaller group, Alexander said.

AIIB has 102 approved members, 80 of which have completed the ratification process, though a few more are expected to complete it in the coming weeks.

AIIB will do several test runs to ensure that the board meeting will go smoothly, and try to help strengthen internet connections where they are weak so that every shareholder can participate and ask questions, Alexander said.

The annual meeting will also have some components that are open to the public — likely an opening ceremony, and possibly a knowledge program of online seminars.

The bank is working on its corporate strategy and what its agenda will look like in the next decade and will likely give people a chance to engage on those topics, Alexander said. The meeting will also be a good opportunity to check in about AIIB’s COVID-19 response, he added.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.