Unity has not been the French Socialists’ foremost feature. The infighting between leading party figures played a big part in their defeat in the 2007 presidential elections. Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as the former finance minister is known in France, had a good chance to change this; latest opinion polls had given him a clear lead on the incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy. Now the turbulent times could be back, with both Martine Aubry and former party leader François Hollande as likely Socialist contenders for the presidency.
Mr. Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party has been keen not to be too gleeful about the news from New York. Trade minister Pierre Lellouche stressed that Strauss-Kahn should be granted the benefit of the doubt.
“It's an accusatory system in the United States, so what I would say is that we should be very careful on the presumption of innocence and hope that nothing damning comes out of this,” Mr. Lellouche said.
The far-right National Front was less tactful. “This case marks the end of his campaign and will most likely prompt the IMF to ask him to leave his post,” said party leader Marine Le Pen, herself a 2012 presidential candidate.
Famous French tolerance?
French voters are famously tolerant when it comes to politicians’ private lives. Late President François Mitterand had a whole second family, and Strauss-Kahn, married three times like Sarkozy, escaped unhurt after he apologized for an affair with a Hungarian IMF colleague in 2008 and called it an “error of judgment.”