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Saturday 24 March 2018

Brilliant and seductive politician enjoys life while he saves the world

Thomas Molloy

DOMINIQUE Strauss-Kahn, the man who now shares ultimate power over what happens in Ireland with a few other figures, is a seductive, brilliant and tactical politician who may yet become president of France.

It was to DSK, as he is universally known, that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan wrote this week when the IMF laid out the conditions for the €85bn bailout.

And it will be DSK who will receive regular updates in future as the plan is implemented.

While the success of the plan could make or break Ireland, it could also make or break DSK's dream of challenging Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in 2012.

If Strauss-Kahn does help save Ireland and run France, it will be the culmination of an extraordinary career for the child of left-wing Jewish parents who grew up in Morocco.

DSK has survived two setbacks that would have destroyed many other politicians: a financial scandal in France, which saw him resign from politics until his name was cleared; and problems following a one-night stand with an IMF subordinate in puritanical Washington, which led to a public apology for "an error of judgment" but a denial that he had abused his position.

His stepping into the euro area, first in Greece and now in Ireland, is raising the IMF's profile and risking his legacy.

The 61-year-old, who was the French finance minister when the euro was launched in 1999, could yet see his ambitions go up in smoke.

But most observers believe that this master tactician will avoid that fate.

Ironically, his appointment in 2007 came at a time when most people believed that the IMF was losing prestige as the booming world economy appeared to make the Washington-based organisation redundant.


The IMF had helped broker solutions to the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s, and rescues for Mexico, Russia, Brazil and Asia in the 1990s after their currencies collapsed, but most people believed that such bailouts would no longer be needed.

"The head of the IMF is in danger of becoming more like the queen or the queen mother rather than a prime minister,'' Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill said back in 2007.

"Which of the big countries in the developing world needs the IMF or really cares what they think?''

Three years later, DSK leads an IMF that is both powerful and energetic.

DSK gives every impression of enjoying life while saving the world. He lives in Washington with his third wife, the French journalist Anne Sinclair.

But most observers believe that the grand seducteur, as the French media call him, will return to his native land next year.

Opinion polls show that if an election were held today, Strauss-Kahn would beat the unpopular Sarkozy.

As a columnist in the French weekly 'L'Express' wrote recently: "Either DSK serves France by declaring his candidacy, or he serves it, as well, by saving the global economy at the IMF. It's a grandiose dilemma of the sort any politician might dream."

Irish Independent

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