News / Europe

IMF Chief Scandal Throws French Elections A Curveball

Just a week ago, Strauss-Khan headed one of the world's most powerful institutions, appeared likely to run - and win - France's 2012 presidential race

A woman reads the French newspaper
A woman reads the French newspaper "Le Parisien" headlining on IMF head arrest, in Paris, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The indictment of ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges has upended French politics just a year before presidential elections.

Just a week ago, Dominique Strauss-Khan headed one of the world's most powerful institutions and appeared likely to run - and win - France's 2012 presidential race. Now Strauss-Kahn has resigned from his job as International Monetary Fund chief and spent several days in prison after allegedly assaulting a hotel maid.

As he prepares for a likely trial in New York, his political career appears over - and France's election landscape has been thrown into turmoil.

Like many analysts, France Television reporter and former Washington correspondent Ulysse Gosset, describes the changes as cataclysmic.

"It's an earthquake for French politics and probably everything has changed in one week since the scandal has emerged in the United States. It's a big shock for French public opinion," he said.

As the Strauss-Kahn controversy rages here, the political fallout appears unclear. So far, the sexual assault allegations dogging him have not hurt the image of his opposition Socialist party. Indeed, an IPSOS survey this week puts another, less charismatic Socialist politician, Francois Hollande, ahead in the polls, scoring 29 percent of possible votes - 10 points ahead of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Hollande has started his campaign a few months ago quietly, saying he was a normal man and a good politician. And this image of stability and normality in [this] context is probably going to play in his favor," said  Gosset.

The Strauss-Kahn scandal has also benefited another politician - Marine Le Pen, the 42-year-old leader of the far-right National Front and a rising star in French politics.

Le Pen told French radio Thursday that Strauss-Kahn's indictment definitely puts him out of the presidential race. She has described him as politically discredited.

Along with support, Strauss-Kahn also earned derision among ordinary French, who criticized his wealthy, "caviar-left" lifestyle. Analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges believes the sexual assault charges now facing him only serve to deepen public disillusionment toward the political establishment.

"It's clear Strauss-Kahn... is [perceived] as somebody who is above the law... It's why the great winner - and it's a pity - is Mrs. Le Pen. Because first, she's a populist and second point, she's not a traditional politician - she doesn't belong to the club," he said.

So far,  President Sarkozy has remained uncharacteristically silent about the  scandal. In 2007, he championed Strauss-Kahn's candidacy to head the IMF - in part, observers say, to get a rival out of the way.

Strauss-Kahn's downfall has not improved Sarkozy's ratings. He remains one of France's most unpopular presidents ever.

Still, journalist Gossett says it's too early to write off a second Sarkozy term.

"He's going to fight right to the end and he's very efficient. So even if the polls are low today, it doesn't mean a thing."

Next week, Sarkozy hosts the G8 summit in the French city of Deauville - giving him the opportunity to burnish his international statesman's stature.

And there are a slew of reports that his glamorous wife, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, is pregnant. The presidency has no comment, but recent pictures of Mrs. Sarkozy are revealing.  That may cast the French president in another flattering light - as a happily married, family man.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs