DSK's curious comeback

The disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn never really left the French political stage.

    The end of Strauss-Kahn's legal trouble will only aid his political return, writes Piet [AFP]
    The end of Strauss-Kahn's legal trouble will only aid his political return, writes Piet [AFP]

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn's acquittal in an aggravated pimping investigation earlier this month signifies the end of judiciary troubles for the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief and 2012 French presidential favourite. This concluded an array of court cases and judiciary investigations that have since been labelled a fiasco. 

    From his alleged rape of a maid in a five-star New York hotel, to his possible presence in orgies in the north of France, Strauss-Kahn's reputation has been severely damaged. The images of his perp walk in the early hours of a gloomy New York morning shocked a nation that had previously heralded him as its likely future president.

    Despite the public outrage towards Strauss-Kahn, he has not been convicted of any wrongdoings throughout his various trials.

    The accusation of rape from the New York Sofitel maid was settled in a financial arrangement - an unpopular outcome in French public opinion, which abhors any perceived attempt by the rich and powerful to buy their way out of trouble.

    Biased quest

    But the judiciary process was also marred by allegations that Strauss-Kahn could have been framed and that the prosecutor had been acting on a personal and biased quest. Similarly, the other investigations into his lavish and allegedly violent lifestyle were dropped and consensus is that they likely should have never been conducted in the first place.

    Inside Story - DSK: The case and the chaos

    Even if Strauss-Kahn faces public disgrace in the media and his return to politics is deemed to be out of the question, his economic expertise is still highly regarded by the French public.

    France is neither the United States nor Malaysia; while Americans sought the impeachment of one of their best presidents in modern history, for his supposed inability to control his sexual drive, the French just laughed in disbelief.

    When a long-ruling coalition in Kuala Lumpur jailed its most prominent opponent, Anwar Ibrahim, over alleged corruption and sodomy charges, France and many international NGOs called attention to the political motivations of such a ruling.

    In France, private sexual practises are considered to be something that should remain private - even for public figures. Francois Mitterrand had a daughter outside of marriage; Giscard d'Estaing hinted at an affair with Princess Diana in a romantic novel he wrote, and Jacques Chirac is known to have been a persistent philanderer.

    And current President Francois Hollande's well-known affair with actress Julie Gayet has not negatively impacted his popularity rating. The accomplished previous mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, is gay.

    Despite the recent wave of scandals, he is widely considered to be the one economist who can pull France out of depression.


    None of these were ground for public outrage in France. For the French, the details of one's private life should not override one's ability to deliver as a head of state.

    Many supporters

    As a result, Strauss-Kahn still has many supporters. As opposed to the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - whose womanising eclipsed his lack of competence - Strauss-Kahn is almost unanimously praised for his economic prowess.

    Despite the recent wave of scandals, he is widely considered to be the one economist who can pull France out of depression. In a poll earlier this week, 40 percent of French people expressed the hope that Strauss-Kahn would play a key role in the future of French politics.

    This contrasts with the intellectual pitfalls that many attribute to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who came across as a stand-up comedian with foul jokes that compared immigrants to water leaks, while his tenure as president brought no real economic or social solutions to France.

    The truth is that Strauss-Kahn never really left the French political stage, or at least its sidelines. Manuel Valls, the current French prime minister, is one of his disciples.

    Strauss-Kahn has had a hand in the schism in the ruling socialist party, which remains divided between a radical perspective and the socially democrat one - some would say the socially liberal one. It is believed that Strauss-Kahn and his economic theories have influenced the current Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron.

    Hollande has tried to bring compromise to these two incompatible wings but with only limited success, and Strauss-Kahn likely has a stronger influence in shaping French economic policy. Though Hollande's record is solid internationally, he is regularly mocked for his lukewarm positions on domestic issues - as indicated by his nickname "President Flamby", which takes its inspiration from a dull-looking local caramel custard. Hollande will clearly need Strauss-Kahn's support if he wants to be re-elected in two years.

    Back to prominence

    Strauss-Kahn's perspectives are still present on the domestic scene, and his ambition should likely also bring him to prominence on the international stage.

    Globally, his advice and expertise remain highly regarded, and he has already been invited to serve on the boards of several development banks while being heralded as an official adviser to governments.

    Strauss-Kahn before hearing the verdict in cases against him [Reuters] 

    The end of Strauss-Kahn's legal trouble will only aid his political return as the public recalls the success of his time at the IMF. During his tenure, the international organisation initiated a turn towards stronger inclusion of developing nations. It also adopted a more active role towards global challenges such as climate change.

    Now that France is about to host the Global Climate Change Summit (COP 21) - a crucial gathering in which the long-term future of mankind will be debated in the face of global inaction and indifference - the return of Strauss-Kahn and his ability to navigate and convince global leaders will become all the more relevant.

    So, will his desire to be remembered for his diplomatic skills and economic expertise rather than his questionable private life be fulfilled?

    His eagerness to redeem himself might be put to good use by propelling him to distance himself from the abysmal records of past social democrat figures.

    One can bet that Strauss-Kahn will be more effective than "nababs" such as Tony Blair, whose achievements as a United Nations Peace Envoy for the Middle East have been nonexistent, or Gerhard Schroeder, who quickly sold himself to Russian energy interests.

    Strauss-Kahn's eagerness to return becomes apparent through his remarkable entry onto the Twitter scene. His enigmatic first post, "Jack is back," created a mini seism in French media last week.

    In a matter of a few hours, more than 30,000 Twitter users retweeted his first post on the Greek financial crisis, while the number of people he follows on Twitter is kept to the bare minimum: his life partner and the two winners of the Nobel Prize in economics, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who offer a socially democratic take on France's current economic model.

    French public opinion, which is uncharacteristically uncomfortable with Strauss-Kahn's sexual habits, yet not opposed to his return, is often mocked outside French borders. But instead it should be praised. Tired of supporting shallow PR-shaped political leaders who use their podiums to hide the weakness of their arguments and ideas, French citizens are opting for competence over legitimate (if unproven) suspicions of condemnable sexual behaviour.

    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



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