'Great Seducer' can kiss presidency goodbye
Published 17/05/2011 | 05:00
He was known in his native France as the 'Great Seducer', a nickname that, in the light of this weekend's dramatic events, has acquired a far more sinister air. With disturbing reports from France of his alleged predatory behaviour towards women and at least one other alleged victim having come forward, it is clear that Strauss-Kahn's 25-year political career is over.
Before being arrested and charged with the attempted rape of a hotel chambermaid in New York, Strauss-Kahn was the favourite to win the Socialist Party nomination to run against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's French presidential election. With Sarkozy under pressure from the left and the far-right, Strauss-Kahn was being widely tipped to take over as the occupant of the Elysee Palace in May 2012.
With his roguish charm, ageing matinee idol looks and fluent English, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as he is universally known in France, was easily the best-known French politician after President Sarkozy. After losing out to Segolene Royal for the Socialist Party nomination in the 2007 presidential election, he was appointed managing director of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund in 2007.
His nomination was supported by the newly-elected President Sarkozy with cynics suggesting that Sarkozy's apparent magnanimity was motivated by a desire to get his most dangerous political opponent out of the country.
Until this weekend DSK's leadership of the IMF was widely considered to have been a great success. The organisation has played a key role in structuring the Greek, Irish and Portuguese debt bailouts and, having been widely criticised in the past for an excessively doctrinaire attitude, DSK's IMF adopted a more pragmatic approach.
As one of the "big beasts" of French and European politics, DSK had the stature required to lead a major international organisation such as the IMF. At the time of his arrest he was due to fly to Europe to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the recurring Greek financial crisis.
Although he had not yet formally declared his candidacy, it was widely expected that he would quit the IMF and return to France to throw his hat into the ring later this summer.
However, even before his arrest and charging, DSK's colourful private life was seen by many observers of the French political scene as a possible Achilles Heel. While the French public generally takes a more tolerant view of such peccadilloes than their counterparts in English-speaking countries, Strauss-Kahn's private life has been an eventful one even by relaxed French standards.
He has been married three times and has had many widely-publicised affairs.
In 2008 he was censured by the IMF board for having had an affair with a subordinate staff member, Piroska Nagy. After conducting an investigation into the matter the IMF board concluded that the affair "was regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment on the part of the managing director". However, Strauss-Kahn was cleared of accusations of harassment and, after issuing a grovelling apology, got to keep his job.
He is unlikely to escape so lightly this time. His position is being further weakened as other women come forward alleging that they too have been the recipients of Strauss-Kahn's unwanted attention. Yesterday French writer Tristane Banon, a god-daughter of DSK's second wife, alleged that he had attempted to rape her in 2002. The word from Paris is that there could be further embarrassing revelations in the coming days and weeks.
All of which means that Strauss-Kahn's hopes of being the Socialist Party candidate for president next year now lie in tatters. If found guilty he faces the prospect of up to 25 years in jail.
This would force the 'Great Seducer' to swap the expensive hotel suites he has grown so fond of for far more Spartan facilities.