Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested Saturday for attempted rape, jeopardizing his chance at France’s presidential election race. The news significantly improves the odds for his Socialist Party challenger Francois Hollande.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was charged with the attempted rape and criminal sex act of a New York hotel maid. He plead not guilty in a U.S. court.
Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually attacked a 32-year-old maid on May 14 at a Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan according to the New York Police Department. Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody after boarding an Air France flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was also charged with unlawful imprisonment.
The charges may result in the International Monetary Fund’s chief needing to stay in the United States for several months, causing him to miss the June 28 deadline to participate in the Socialist Party primaries.
“Whatever the investigation shows, Strauss-Kahn cannot make it back to the race and maybe not to French politics all together,” Gerard Grunberg, a professor at the Political Sciences Institute in Paris, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “The game is reset; Hollande may take the lead at the Socialist primaries, (eliminating President Nicolas) Sarkozy will try to win over Strauss-Kahn supporters at the center and National Front leader Marine Le Pen is banking on the failure of France’s elite.”
The two-round French presidential elections will take place April 29 and May 6, 2012. The Socialist Party plans on holding its primaries in October. Strauss-Kahn had been leading in election opinion polls over the last six months.
The latest poll, which was published in yesterday’s Journal du Dimanche and taken before Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, put him at the top. The poll estimated he would eliminate Sarkozy in the first round with 26 percent against 21.5 percent.
However, Strauss-Kahn was also criticized by some for his “luxurious” lifestyle after being photographed with his wife in Paris early this month with a Porsche.
News of his arrest struck “like a thunderbolt,” according to a statement made by Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry. “I am asking the Socialists to remain united and responsible,” she added.
Socialist Party challenger Francois Hollande responded to the news Saturday during a Canal Plus TV interview. “I won’t raise myself by depreciating others,” he said. “I have been campaigning for several months, I do things simply, clearly, according what I believe is the good order and the good way to talk to the French people.”
This is the second sex-related scandal for Strauss-Kahn since he was named the International Monetary Fund’s managing director in 2007. In 2008 it was discovered that he was having an affair with an economist at the IMF.
At the time, Strauss-Kahn wrote to IMF’s employees that “this incident constituted an error in judgment on my part, for which I take full responsibility. An investigation cleared him of abuse of power.
Strauss-Kahn’s wife, former television journalist Anne Sinclair, wrote on her blog, “this affair is now behind us,” a few weeks following the 2008 discovery.
After Saturday’s arrest, Sinclair sent a statement to Agence France-Presse expressing her disbelief in the maid's claims. She wrote that she has “no doubts his innocence will be established.”