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 Strauss-Kahn twist may change stakes in France

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PostSubject: Strauss-Kahn twist may change stakes in France   Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:24 am

By Catherine Bremer | Reuters – 12 mins ago

PARIS (Reuters) - News that the sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn could collapse hit France like a thunderbolt on Friday, raising prospects of his return to French politics, though probably not to the 2012 presidential race.

Socialists, who saw Strauss-Kahn as their best chance of winning power after years in opposition until his arrest in May, rejoiced at news that prosecutors in New York now doubt the credibility of the hotel maid who alleged he tried to rape her.

The dramatic twist revived anger among his supporters over the way the former IMF chief was paraded handcuffed and unshaven by U.S. authorities, and locked up in the grim Rikers Island prison, before having a chance to defend himself.

But others in France said that even if his name were cleared, too much damage may have been done to Strauss-Kahn's reputation for him to be electable, although he could return gradually to politics and take a lesser post in government.

"Is this the end of the American nightmare for the former Socialist minister? Far from it," mused the conservative daily Le Figaro, as France digested the idea that the man who went in their eyes from possible future president to apparent sexual predator in a matter of hours may have been falsely accused.

Two sources close to the case said the credibility of the hotel maid, a 32-year-old immigrant from the West African state of Guinea, was now in question. The New York Times said the prosecution case was on the verge of collapse.

French Socialists, who have been grappling since the sudden loss of their star candidate to come up with a Plan B to uproot conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, said they were elated.

"Today I am thinking of the integrity of a man that has been thrown to the dogs... and of the news we hope will enable him to restore his honor," said acting Socialist Party leader Harlem Desir.

"We need Dominique Strauss-Kahn, our country needs Dominique Strauss-Kahn. This is an amazing turn for our party and our country," said Socialist lawmaker Jean-Marie Le Guen, one of the former IMF chief's closest political aides, predicting he would be a key player in the months ahead.

Strauss-Kahn was popular among center-left voters as an economically competent, modernizing social democrat with much more international experience than other Socialist contenders.

Yet political analysts say that even if he is cleared and enjoys a wave of sympathy, the stain on his image could linger for months, making it unclear how much he could boost the left in the election.

"There will always be question marks hanging over him," said University of Strasbourg sociology professor Gerald Bronner. "His return could even be poisonous for the Socialists as in the short term the affair would be very uncomfortable for them."


Strauss-Kahn, under house arrest in New York, will go back to court on Friday, with prosecutors now discussing whether to drop the serious felony charges against him.

They may still seek to make him plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor, with questions remaining over whether any sexual encounter was consensual or forced.

Candidates for France's April 22 election have until mid-March to declare themselves meaning that, if cleared, Strauss-Kahn could be back in France in time to run.

However, contenders for the Socialist primary must register by July 13, ahead of an October party vote, and it is unlikely the process could be delayed long enough for him to enter.

Even if a dropping of the charges prompted Strauss-Kahn's supporters to rally behind him, many voters may have been permanently alienated by stories that have surfaced since May of compulsive sexual behavior and pestering of women journalists.

Strauss-Kahn's popularity rating has slid since May by 10 points or more in opinion polls to stand as low as 27 percent in a survey by pollster IPSOS taken on June 17 and 18.

"Many things still count against him, including the calendar. It will take weeks or months to perfect his defense," said Christope Barbier, a political commentator and editor of the weekly L'Express.

"Even if what he did was not criminal, all this is going to take time. There is everything we have learned about him, the damage to his reputation. All this makes the idea he could be a candidate very hypothetical, it's science fiction."

On the other hand, the new turn in the case rekindled talk among French bloggers of the case being a trap set by Strauss-Kahn's enemies, rumors that could hurt his conservative opponents.


Strauss-Kahn's arrest in May sent shockwaves through France, instantly dashing the former finance minister's chances of challenging the center-right Sarkozy in the April election.

Sarkozy consistently declined comment on the case and urged cabinet ministers to keep quiet. His silence helped his approval ratings. His office had no comment on the latest turn of events.

The affair set off a muck-raking debate over Strauss-Kahn's private life and the French media's practice of hushing up alleged sexual misconduct by politicians.

It also sparked anger over the way U.S. law allowed the Frenchman to be paraded before TV cameras in a "perp walk," a practice unknown in France, and a backlash has already begun against a perceived rush to judgment in the U.S. media.

"When you are victim of a media campaign for three weeks and described in the way Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been, you don't emerge unscathed," said Francois Pupponi, Socialist mayor of the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where Strauss-Kahn was once mayor.

Martine Aubry, who declared her presidential candidacy this week after Strauss-Kahn's fall from grace, voiced relief at the news from New York and sympathy for him on Friday, but did not say whether she believed he could enter the 2012 race.

Socialist Michele Sabban said the party should suspend its primary contest to give Strauss-Kahn the time to enter.

"With the worldwide humiliation he's been through, I think it would be worth waiting," he said. "I hope as much effort will go into clearing his name as it did in destroying it."

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PostSubject: Re: Strauss-Kahn twist may change stakes in France   Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:09 am

I find it VERY interesting that just a day or 2 after the new head of the IMF is ensconced in her position, that the charges against Strauss-Kahn will most likely be dropped. A rather blatant example of subterfuge and conspiracy, IMO!
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