Dominique Strauss-Kahn, once considered one of the world's most powerful men, regularly praised for his intelligence and his leadership, was questioned on Tuesday in a courthouse in northern France over his alleged participation in a prostitution ring.
The former International Monetary Fund director and front runner for the 2012 French presidential elections, was charged with "aggravated pimping" after his alleged participation in sex parties was confirmed by wiretaps.
This trial represents the last phase of the disgraced politician's brutal descent into hell which started with his indictment in May 2011 for sexually assaulting a New York hotel housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo. If the events for which Strauss-Kahn is on trial today pre-date the New York aggression, they still paint a disturbing picture of the collusion between power and sex, which had so far been incarnated by Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.
A libertine gathering
Strauss-Kahn claims he never knew that the women were paid and that he believed he was participating in a libertine gathering of consenting adults. Still, even if France is known for its liberal stance and open-mindedness, this will most likely seal his political coffin. If French citizens have regularly accepted - or turned a blind eye to - their leaders' libertine lifestyle, they strongly abhor the abuse of women - whether by assault or prostitution.
The New York trial had left France in shock as Strauss-Kahn was then widely viewed as the likely successor to Nicolas Sarkozy, thrashing him by 30 percent in second round polls. The left wing political leader was, until then, able to boast an impressive record at the helm of the IMF.
He had contributed to curbing a global financial crisis and had successfully initiated the reform of the international organisation. For the first time under his leadership, the IMF was promoting a less dogmatic approach - calling for more sustainable development and inclusive economic growth.
These achievements - together with a successive spell as finance and economy minister at the turn of the century, when France experienced its highest economic growth in recent years - have been brutally overshadowed by a string of sensational sex scandals and the indelible image of his perp walk in Manhattan in handcuffs.
Unlikely to play another role
Yet, even if Strauss-Kahn is unlikely to have another leadership role in French politics, his influence and public support for his economic and political views cannot be understated. An opinion poll conducted last year revealed that the French continue to have a high regard for the economic policies promoted by Strauss-Kahn. He ranked first in a list of personalities that would "achieve better results than Francois Hollande". This is ahead of any other political leader - whether from the right (Sarkozy and Juppe) or the left (Valls).
In effect, the very political reforms advocated by Strauss-Kahn are now being implemented by the French government. Hollande, whom many only saw as a candidate by default stepping in Strauss-Kahn's shoes, attempted to follow his own economic agenda, with very bleak economic results.
The very political reforms advocated by Strauss-Kahn are now being implemented by the French government.
Acknowledging the failure of his radical socialist approach, the French president had no other option but to implement a sharp turn in his economic agenda towards social liberalism, becoming the advocate of the very "socialism of production", coined by Strauss-Kahn, more than 10 years ago.
Strauss-Kahn's influence on French politics and the French economy can also be seen in the presence of his political allies in key positions at the helm of the French state. This was symbolised by the replacement of the prime minister last March - from Hollande's close friend Jean Marc Ayrault to Manuel Valls, who always pitted himself as a social liberal.
In search of lost time
Jean Claude Cambadelis, another Strauss-Kahn partisan, currently runs the majority party while several of his supporters are members of the government; such as Jean Marie Le Guen, Matthias Fekl, Marisol Touraine and even current Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron.
His former right-hand man, Pierre Moscovici, is now in charge of the European budget at the European Commission.
After having been a collateral victim of the implosion of their political mentor in New York, this new generation of political leaders, most in their 30s or 40s, are now poised to implement what Strauss-Kahn had prepared for his run for the 2012 elections.
Two years have passed and been lost, two years during which the French economy flirted with recession.
Two years during which the extreme right flourished on the succession of faux pas and the perceived amateurism of the government. Two years during which the results of Sarkozy's short-sighted economic policies, that led France to a series of imbalances, were not corrected.
The current trial of Strauss-Kahn will mark the downfall of an outstanding brain betrayed by the weakness of his flesh and the shadiness of his values.
His closest disciples will most likely welcome the verdict as the official end to their own political exile, and ruminate over the time lost.
Remi Piet is assistant professor of public policy, diplomacy and international political economy at Qatar University.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera