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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Has the DSKK hit the fan?

A word of explanation about my slightly cryptic title. The pronunciation of the acronym of Dominique Strauss-Khan's name in French is Day-Ess-Kah. You do the rest!

Easily the biggest media story in France over the past couple of months has been about the former head of  the International Monetary Fund and his alleged behaviour in New York and, before that, in Paris. It is probably fair to say that in the main he has been fairly treated both in the press and on the television as the French, at least in public, have an almost unswayable respect for the political classes. Except perhaps for a certain Monsieur Sarkozy and even then they go to pains to separate their comments out making clear that anything less than deferential is aimed at the man and not the revered post which he currently holds.

Speculation has been rife about if, when and how DSK can return to frontline politics with opinions varying from claims he has a mental illness (sex addiction) to the potential loss of a "brilliant economic brain". Certainly it seems increasingly unlikely that he will play any major part in the socialists' primary contest to choose their candidate for the presidential elections next year although he was previously seen as the best person for the job, and, if polls are to be believed, would have had a strong chance of taking over at the Elysée Palace. The two, or three depending on your allegiance, remaining frontrunners are all very careful to keep him in the fold yet at a certain distance. Even though the headlines at the weekend were about how DSK had been "blanchi" there is a definite feeling that he is nowhere near whiter than white and that there are now substantial stains on his character whether or not he is ever found guilty in a court. I so wanted there to be a french verb for "bleached" as that seemed more appropriate but they only have "blanchi" so I am offering "blanchi à Javel"!

Interestingly he has been an astute cultural player humbly apologising to the IMF for the embarrassment that the case has caused and yet, at least so far, not making any such gesture in France. Apparently to do so would, in French eyes, be tantamount to a confession. Whilst being a "player" is not necessarily detrimental to a politician's career in France, indeed it can boost it unlike the puritanical USA and more recently UK, it has become difficult to ignore his mounting list of indiscretions and their erosion of the trust that he would need to instill in potential voters.

So at this stage of the game the best he can hope for is to lay low until after the presidential elections next May. If he has been a good boy he could still hope for a high profile job in the new president's government. If not then maybe the proverbial fan may suffer some more.

And to finish off a quick update on the latest polls, which show that François Hollande is still favourite to be the socialists' candidate but that both he or Martine Aubry would comfortably beat Nicolas Sarkozy in both the first and second rounds. Only Ségolène Royal, socialist candidate last time, would fail to topple Sarko. The recent surge of support for Marine Penn appears to have ebbed away leaving her in third position again.

More to come over the next 9 months!

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