By Lisa Bryant
There is strong reaction in France over the sexual assault charges against International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Considered a leading French presidential contender, Strauss-Kahn was arrested by New York City police late Saturday.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest has dominated the discussion on Sunday talks shows in France. New York City police apprehended the 62-year-old IMF chief aboard an Air France plane Saturday in New York, just minutes before its departure for Paris.
Strauss-Kahn, a popular French Socialist politician and former finance minister, faces charges in the United States of criminal sexual assault, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. A maid at a New York hotel claims he sexually assaulted her in his suite.
If the charges prove true, they may likely end any prospects of him running against French President Nicolas Sarkozy next year. Strauss-Kahn has not yet declared if he will be a candidate for the 2012 polls, but he was considered a likely and strong contender.
The deputy director of the IFOP polling institute, Jerome Fourquet, told French radio that if the charges proved true it would be extremely hard for Strauss-Kahn to rally back as a politician.
Top Socialist Party politicians have offered a low-key response to the allegations. Interviewed on Europe 1 radio, Segolene Royal, the Socialist contender against Sarkozy in the 2007 race, said the news came as a shock.
Reading from prepared remarks, Royal said the allegations were distressing, but still needed to be verified. She says Strauss-Kahn deserves to be presumed innocent, like anybody else, until found guilty.
Strauss-Kahn, who is married, previously admitted to an affair with a Hungarian economist at the IMF. But his supporters say he is not the kind of man to carry out a sexual assault.
Opposition politicians have offered harsher reactions.
A French parliament deputy and member of Sarkozy’s ruling UMP Party, Bernard Debre, told French radio the allegations against Strauss-Kahn were a humiliation for all of France.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen also offered a reaction.
In broadcast remarks, Le Pen said if the allegations proved true, Strauss-Kahn would be discredited.
Observers speculate the charges may boost Le Pen’s candidacy for the 2012 presidential elections, as well as that of Sarkozy, who is battling historically low popularity ratings.