By Tim Montgomerie
In France they call him a cavier socialist because of his penchant for high living:
"Over the past week or so, doubtless fed by the political right, the French media has been filled with reports about Mr Strauss-Kahn’s lifestyle, complete with photographs of his pad in Marrakech and swanky Paris flats. A picture of him getting into a Porsche, belonging to an adviser, set off a fierce and tortured French debate about whether it is possible to be left-wing and rich."
But this decadence hadn't stopped Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as he's called, building up a healthy opinion poll rating in the battle to become France's next president. The head of the IMF wasn't just the French Socialist party's most popular candidate in their ambition to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy he was – because of his reformist approach to the economy – their only candidate likely to win significant support from the centre.
Then, yesterday, we learnt of DSK's alleged sexual molestation of a hotel maid in a $3,000-a-night New York suite. He has long had a reputation as a womaniser (the internet has educated the French people about their politicians in a way their press never did) but these charges of attempted rape are so serious and wicked that they may have dealt a fatal blow to his chances of winning the battle for the Élysée Palace. Even if he is found not guilty by the US legal process a shadow will now hover over Strauss-Kahn's head for a potentially ruinous period. If he wanted to be the French Socialists' candidate he needed to declare by 13th July.
DSK's plight is also a big blow to the IMF. The international agency is left without its heavyweight boss at a time when urgent decisions are needing to be taken about the Greek economy and the Eurozone.
Sarkozy – with an approval rating of just 20% in some polls – shouldn't be too pleased at his rival's downfall, however, warns the FT (£); "Recent surveys indicate that the far right’s Marine Le Pen may beat Mr Sarkozy in the election’s first round next April and eliminate him from the two-candidate run-off." Next April is a long time away but France would then face an unappetising choice between the extremist Le Pen and an economically regressive socialist candidate.