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 "Le Parisien" headlining on IMF head arrest, in Paris, Tuesday, May 17, 2011
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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid