France waits to hear Strauss-Kahn on New York sex scandal

5th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

France waited Monday for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to give his version of exactly what happened on May 14 in a plush New York hotel room in a sex scandal that torpedoed his hopes for the French presidency.

The ex-International Monetary Fund chief has promised to talk about what he has called his "terrible and unjust ordeal" and the French -- deeply divided over "l'affaire DSK" -- also want to know if he plans to return to politics.

Strauss-Kahn arrived back in Paris on Sunday, nearly four months after being accused of attempted rape by a hotel maid and a fortnight after the charges were dropped when prosecutors said the accuser lacked credibility.

He and his wealthy journalist wife Anne Sinclair smiled profusely and waved at the horde of journalists at the airport and later outside their home on Place des Vosges in the trendy Marais district, but they said not a word.

But a close associate of the former IMF chief told AFP that Strauss-Kahn -- who has insisted that the sex with the Manhattan hotel maid was consensual -- was preparing "a strong message" for broadcast.

The 62-year-old Socialist politician still faces a civil suit from his New York accuser as well as a probe into allegations he tried to rape a young writer in Paris in 2003, which he denies.

Before the New York sex scandal, opinion polls showed he was the top contender to oust the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

But recent polls show that a majority of French -- many of whom saw his arrest in New York as a national humiliation -- no longer want him to to return to a high-profile political role.

His return has sparked unease in the Socialist party which is currently holding a primary to pick its candidate for the 2012 vote, with party leader Martine Aubry and her predecessor Francois Hollande now the top contenders.

Sarkozy is languishing in opinion polls and the French economy is flatlining, so whichever Socialist emerges from the primary ought to be in with a chance.

Party heavyweights have welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Strauss-Kahn, but many have sought to distance themselves from him in an apparent attempt to avoid association with his tarnished reputation.

Strauss-Kahn, seen as a brilliant politician and a gifted economist, is nevertheless widely expected to have some sort of role in next year's election campaign.

Hollande said that his "competence in the areas of finance and on the international stage is sought after and recognised."

Michelle Sabban, a senior figure in the Socialist party in the Paris region, said Strauss-Kahn would not just disappear into the political shadows.

"The rehabilitation must be as big as the humiliation suffered," she said.

Even his political foes paid tribute to his talent, with former right-wing prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin saying he was "not out of the game" and could easily "resume a political career."

But his allegedly predatory behaviour towards women will clearly complicate any political comeback.

Chantal Brunel, a right-wing politician and the head of France's national watchdog on sexual equality, said Strauss-Kahn would remain "an indelible stain on the Socialist party."

© 2011 AFP

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