الاثنين، 11 يوليو 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn's return could be a threat to Nicolas Sarkozy
French Socialists were in chaos as key figures speculated whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn could return to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential race next year, throwing the party into another round of instability and internal ego-clashes.
Strauss-Kahn was the clear favourite to win the 2012 presidential election before he was arrested for allegedly attempting to rape a New York hotel maid in May. He is no longer under house arrest, but still faces seven charges ranging from attempted rape to sexual assault. If he is cleared or charges are dropped, supporters such as former culture minister Jack Lang suggested he could return to France more popular than ever before.
Strauss-Kahn's possible return has thrown the Socialist party's primary race into disarray. The party had presumed his presidential hopes were dead and opened its selection process for another candidate last week. Candidates must declare by 13 July for an October vote, but Strauss-Kahn's next hearing is scheduled for 18 July.
Current front-runner François Hollande was the first to declare this weekend that he had "no problem" with pushing back the declaration date until the end of August, allowing Strauss-Kahn to return from New York if charges were dropped quickly. But the party's interim leader, Harlem Désir, snapped back that there didn't seem to be "any reason" to move the deadline. The row has weakened Martine Aubry, who declared her presidential bid last week, but had a pact with Strauss-Kahn and could be pressured to stand aside for him.
All depends on whether the prosecution maintains its case and goes to trial or quickly drops charges against Strauss-Kahn, and if so how the French public and opinion polls perceive him.
Even while the charges still stand, some French supporters presented him as an innocent victim, hero and martyr. Left-wing philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy spoke of a noble man who had been the victim of a "spiral of horror and calumny". He told Le Parisien that Strauss-Kahn had been "lynched" by the "friends of minorities" in the US. He said that because the victim was "poor and immigrant" she had been presumed innocent, and because Strauss-Kahn was "powerful" he had been presumed guilty.
Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, political editor of the weekly Le Point, felt "anything is possible". A returning Strauss-Kahn might be seen by the French as "hero" mistreated or "humiliated" by the American justice system. Much would depend on whether French left voters still saw him as a "saviour" against Sarkozy, she wrote.
But while many Socialists felt DSK could return triumphant if totally cleared, others worried about the stain the case would leave on French politics and the damage done by revelations about his private life and his attitude to women. Since his arrest, a French taboo has been broken and Strauss-Kahn's behaviour towards women, deemed "libertine" by his friends, has been raked over. Socialist Anne Mansouret, who said she regretted dissuading her daughter, journalist Tristane Banon, from pressing charges over an alleged sexual assault in 2002, had said Strauss-Kahn had a "problem" with women which could be seen as a sickness.
Strauss-Kahn seemed not to be worried about his political image on Friday night when he went out for a $100 bowl of pasta with friends, casting aside the controversy in France that he should tone down his image of "champagne socialism".
Socialist MP Marisol Touraine, a key DSK ally, said she hoped for Strauss-Kahn's "rehabilitation" but warned that he would not be able to return to a "status quo" in France as if nothing had happened. Gérard Collomb, the mayor of Lyon and Strauss-Kahn supporter, warned that Strauss-Kahn should first "rebuild himself" before a possible return to the presidential race, warning that no one emerged from such a case "unscathed".
Pollsters cautioned that Strauss-Kahn's return would be shaped by whether the American justice system cleared him or whether charges were dropped, leaving doubts. Pascal Perrineau, of Paris's Institute of Political Science, said that if Strauss-Kahn was cleared of all suspicion, his return to France could still be complicated.
"If a strong doubt persists over his behaviour, and even if that behaviour isn't as criminal as was once suggested, a return [to politics] seems really very difficult," he told Reuters.
Gerald Bronner, a sociologist at Strasbourg university, said: "This case has allowed another image of Strauss-Kahn to be put forward in French public opinion. The public wasn't informed of the slightly libertine side of his personal life."
Jean Veil, Strauss-Kahn's French lawyer, said: "He will speak once he's in France and cleared of all suspicion."