DSK Returns: Can Strauss-Kahn Mount A Political Comeback In France?
Though charges of sexual assault were dropped this week in New York against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a political future in France is not guaranteed for the man once thought to be Nicolas Sarkozy's strongest challenger. Still, France's opp
PARIS - Despite the charges being dropped in the criminal case against him, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's troubles with the law are not over. Nafissatou Diallo has filed a civil lawsuit in New York, and in France, there's the case of Tristane Banon, the French journalist who's accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape in 2003. He will have to explain himself when he comes back to France.
Though he was once considered the man most likely to unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 elections, he is not expected to be a candidate. Still, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and former French Finance Minister remains a towering political presence in the Socialist party, especially amidst such uncertain economic times.
Politically, the main question is whether he will take a stand during the Socialist primary. Some of his strongest allies have joined François Hollande, the Socialist candidate currently ahead in the polls. Does that mean that Strauss-Kahn will take sides and support one candidate's positions? To give his opinion during the primary would be a bad idea; he will have to be humble.
Yes, the case against him was dropped, but some facts were proven to be true and it's impossible to erase everything. That is why he will have to justify his behavior. I don't know what his PR advisers (especially Stéphane Fouks) will come up with. Will he give a TV interview, or remain quiet?
He has already said he would speak upon his return to France. He will have to explain once and for all his overwhelming fondness for women. He will have to make things clear, prove that he is now careful about it, and that what happened in the US opened his eyes and made him realize he has to take personal measures. His approval ratings have dramatically slumped. His image has been tarnished.
The Socialist party's error
Many now believe that he should apologize and do whatever it takes not to let something like this happen again. Within the Socialist party, everyone is celebrating his release, though some already worry about his potential comments in the media.
The Socialist party made a major mistake by first accusing Sarkozy's government of plotting against Strauss-Kahn, before calling it a personal matter. But this could not remain a strictly personal matter since it involved the favorite for next year's presidential election, acclaimed by many members of his party even those furthest from his political line.
From the beginning of the case, the Socialist party's reaction was over-the-top. Now their reaction seems premature. Though they have the right to celebrate Strauss-Kahn's release, they must not cross the line. We must remember that charges were dropped because US law may not have allowed the prosecutor to go further. This should not give Socialists any reason to rejoice. Strauss-Kahn was not cleared. Before coming back as a politician, he must first change as a man.
The big question is whether the left will win the presidential election. If François Hollande wins the primary, with the support of Strauss-Kahn allies, will the former IMF chief have a role to play?
If Hollande became the next French President, Strauss-Kahn would most certainly not be in his first government. But he could be called to service a year or two later. But Hollande will only do that if he believes that the man has changed and that his image has been restored in the public's eyes. Strauss-Kahn could then run in parliamentary elections. He won't start his political career from scratch. I cannot even imagine him running for the local elections in Sarcelles (a Paris suburb where he used to be mayor). But this will all depend on the outcome of the presidential election.
But right now, a Strauss-Kahn comeback would be an embarrassment for the Socialist Party and its candidates.
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