French Socialists were in chaos on Saturday as key figures speculated whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn could return to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential race next year, throwing the party into another round of instability and internal ego clashes.
Strauss-Kahn was the clear favorite to win next year’s presidential election before he was arrested for allegedly attempting to rape a New York hotel maid in May. He is no longer under house arrest, but still faces seven charges ranging from attempted rape to sexual assault. If he is cleared or charges are dropped, supporters such as former culture minister Jack Lang suggested he could return to France more popular than ever before.
Strauss-Kahn’s possible return has thrown the Socialist party’s primary race into disarray. The party had presumed his presidential hopes were dead and opened its selection process for another candidate last week. Candidates must declare by July 13 for an October vote, but Strauss-Kahn’s next hearing is scheduled for July 18.
Current front-runner Francois Hollande was the first to declare this weekend that he had “no problem” with pushing back the declaration date until the end of next month, allowing Strauss-Kahn to return from New York if charges were dropped quickly. However, the party’s interim leader, Harlem Desir, snapped back that there didn’t seem to be “any reason” to move the deadline. The row has weakened Martine Aubry, who declared her presidential bid last week, but had a pact with Strauss-Kahn and could be pressured to stand aside for him.
All depends on whether the prosecution maintains its case and goes to trial or quickly drops charges against Strauss-Kahn, and if so how the French public and opinion polls perceive him.
Even while the charges still stand, some French supporters yesterday presented him as an innocent victim, hero and martyr. Left-wing philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy spoke of a noble man who had been the victim of a “spiral of horror and calumny.” He told Le Parisien that Strauss-Kahn had been “lynched” by the “friends of minorities” in the US. He said that because the victim was “poor and immigrant” she had been presumed innocent, and because Strauss-Kahn was “powerful” he had been presumed guilty.
Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, political editor of the weekly Le Point, felt “anything is possible.” A returning Strauss-Kahn might be seen by the French as a “hero” mistreated or “humiliated” by the American justice system. Much would depend on whether French left voters still saw him as a “savior” against Sarkozy, she wrote.
However, while many Socialists felt Strauss-Kahn could return triumphant if totally cleared, others worried about the stain the case would leave on French politics and the damage done by revelations about his private life and his attitude to women. Since his arrest, a French taboo has been broken and Strauss-Kahn’s behavior toward women, deemed “libertine” by his friends, has been raked over.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year