IMF woes reflect 'macho' French politics: British press

17th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a terminal blow to his hopes of becoming French president, but part of the blame must be laid on France's political culture, Britain's press said Tuesday.

The International Monetary Fund head, who was in the running to represent the Socialist party in France's 2012 presidential race, was Monday in the notorious Rikers Island prison after being denied bail by a New York judge.

"No bailout for IMF chief" ran the Independent as its headline, reflecting Monday's court decision and the banker's role in securing financial rescues for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

"There seems little doubt, unless Strauss-Kahn is cleared within days, that (his presidential) race will not now take place," Guardian journalist Jon Henley wrote.

Strauss-Kahn denied Monday sexually assaulting a New York hotel chambermaid, but the judge turned down his $1 million bail offer.

Although sympathy was in short supply, Britain's main broadsheets agreed that France's "fascination with political seducers" and strict privacy laws had contributed to Strauss-Kahn's predicament.

"Suave, permatanned and plainly not short of a franc or two... Strauss-Kahn remains almost a caricature champagne socialist," a profile of the banker in the centre-left Guardian added.

"A reputation as a bit of a ladies' man is no obstacle to success in French politics, indeed quite the reverse. A conviction for assault and attempted rape, however, is an altogether different matter," Henley argued.

"He may now be brought low by a failing long recognised in France, if rarely discussed owing to the country's draconian privacy laws," he added.

Guardian colleague Angelique Chrisafis said the incident raised "the uncomfortable question in the French media and politics of two parallel worlds: what is printed, and what is behind it, gossip, and what must officially remain 'unsaid'."

Meanwhile, the staunchly conservative Daily Mail ran an opinion piece by Stephen Glover carrying the headline "A sexual satyr, a conspiracy of silence and why we must NEVER have privacy laws like France."

"IN THE DOCK -- IMF chief and France's culture of secrecy", the centre-right Times splashed across its front page.

Writing in the paper, Ben Macintyre mirrored the comments of his counterparts, perhaps revealing a desire in Britain to highlight the faults of French politics after being the butt of jokes about their own "uptight" morals.

"The British may be too prudish about sexual behaviour, but the Strauss-Kahn scandal shows that French fascination with political seducers may be at least equally misguided," Macintyre said.

"Sexual behaviour is neither a matter for censure nor approval. The French are no more highly sexed than other nations, although they like to believe they are," he claimed.

The historian said the incident was an "indictment of a macho, secretive French political culture that regards philandering as merely part of a long French tradition: Liberte, Egalite, Infidelite."

© 2011 AFP

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