Form held today, as the US choice for President of the World Bank was formally adopted as the new leader. In a vote of member states, Dr. Jim Yong Kim won election to the Presidency, beating out his chief rival, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director.

Dr. Kim, 52, will take over at the beginning of July, after the current president, Robert B. Zoellick, steps down at the end of his five-year term.

While the selection of Dr. Kim by the bank’s 25-member executive board was no surprise, the board had, for the first time, considered more than one candidate, a reflection of the increasing clout of emerging-market nations on the global stage [...]

The bank itself has granted more power recently to countries like China, Brazil and India, as these cash-rich and fast-growing economies are called on to finance development programs and multilateral institutions, not just to receive financing from them. In 2010, the World Bank increased the relative voting share of emerging economies. It also committed to an open, transparent and merit-based presidential selection process.

But those trends have not yet resulted in a non-American rising to the top of the organization. Traditionally, an American oversees the World Bank, which finances a wide variety of private and public development projects, while a European heads the International Monetary Fund.

At the last minute, Colombia’s José Antonio Ocampo dropped out of the race and endorsed Ngozi, but even making this a head-to-head matchup did not put Ngozi in a position to win. The US, Europe and Japan control about half the voting shares by virtue of their contributions to the World Bank, and so the tradition held. If a former managing director of the World Bank seen as the perfect candidate for the job cannot win an insurgent campaign, nobody really can, at least not with the World Bank as currently constructed.

That’s subject to change in the forthcoming years, however. And the consolation prize of Kim isn’t really a bad one. He’s a global health expert without the baggage of a financial background, and he has in a book he edited criticized the striving for perpetual growth at the heart of globalization policies. He has the chance to be a positive force at the World Bank, and the competitive election should be seen more as a pushback against the tyranny of tradition than anything.