Tue, May 17, 2011
World > Europe > IMF chief faces sex charges

Strauss-Kahn case stuns French politics

2011-05-17 02:15:37 GMT2011-05-17 10:15:37(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), delivers a speech during a panel discussion in Washington D.C., capital of the Untied States, Feb. 10, 2011. (Xinhua/Jiang Xufeng)

PARIS, 16 May (Xinhua) -- The arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the United States provoked a general outcry in French politics.

Considered as one of the most influential politicians in France, Strauss-Kahn is accused of sex assault on a 32-year-old hotel maid on Saturday. A year before presidential election, this shocking case left French politics in disarray, right-wing as well as left- wing.

POLL FAVORITE IN SCANDAL

In only one night, all poll forecasts conducted so far lost their value. Given as main favorite for the oncoming presidential election, Strauss-Kahn has been leading the race for months. Considered as President Nicolas Sarkozy's biggest rival, his international stature and his networks contributed to his popularity.

Politicians agree to think that all outcomes can be expected for the Socialist Party. In the latest poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Le Parisien daily newspaper, the IMF director was well ahead of the other presidential candidates.

He gathered the support of 41 percent of Socialist sympathizers, far more than his left-wing peers, Francois Hollande with 24 percent and Martine Aubry with 18 percent. For Francois Hollande, it is a sensitive issue, since the Socialist deputy is aware that he should not take advantage of the situation.

Only one month before the election by the Socialist Party members of their official candidate, due in the end of June, Strauss-Kahn had the support of numerous left-wing leaders. Many talked of a "secret agreement" that tied him to the party's first secretary, Martine Aubry, and prevented them from competing with each other.

As long as this agreement is now on hold, Aubry could enter the race to become the French Socialist Party's official candidate. Others, such as Pierre Moscovici, Gerard Collomb and Manuel Valls, who are faithful supporters of Strauss-Kahn, had said that they might step forward if their leader left the presidential race. They could change strategies, which could multiply the number of candidates at the internal party election, causing divisions.

GREAT CAUTION AMONG FRENCH POLITICIANS

If politicians agree that the deeds Strauss-Kahn is accused of are very grave, they all followed the same motto: "Caution", apart from a few exceptions.

Marine Le Pen, for instance, was very straightforward. The head of Front National, the far-right French party, recalled that it was well-known among local journalists and politicians that Strauss-Kahn seemed to have "slightly pathological relations" with women. She went on to say that he was discredited for good as a presidential candidate.

But all politicians primarily required established facts and tried not to get carried away. Jean-Luc Melenchon from the far- left party, Parti de Gauche, called for "reserve". Herve Morin, who leads the French centrist party Nouveau Centre, said he wished that Strauss-Kahn "benefit from the presumption of innocence until the American justice does its job."

French right-wingers chose to wait and see before rejoicing. Having obtained very poor rates in polls for weeks, current French President Sarkozy and his government could indirectly benefit from the Strauss-Kahn scandal.

Strauss-Kahn was seen as "the man to be defeated" in the presidential race.

On Sunday, the presidential spokesmen dismissed to comment on the news. Francois Barouin, the government spokesperson, merely said that "the government follows two simple principles: that of a judicial procedure taking place under the authority of American justice ... and the respect of the presumption of innocence. The aim is to avoid feeding plot rumors."

Indeed, a year before presidential election, no one excluded the hypothesis of a manipulation. Christine Boutin, the leader of Parti Democrate, a right-wing party, clearly denounced such a possibility: "It is most likely that a trap was set for Strauss- Kahn and that he got snared".

DARK POLITICAL FUTURE FOR STRAUSS-KAHN

Between 15 and 25 years of imprisonment is the sentence that Strauss-Kahn risks if the sex assault accusations are proved.

Some people already announced the removal of his candidacy as the Socialist Party's runner for presidency, given the very short time limit (the internal party election are taking place at the end of June) in comparison with a judicial procedure which should take time.

However, only the conclusions of the police inquiry will decide his political future. Tuesday, the French Socialist Party is to summon an extraordinary meeting in order to set itself a new strategy.

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