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France

Sarkozy allies blast IMF chief's presidential ambitions

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-17

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and a possible Socialist candidate for the presidency, has faced a barrage of criticism from France's centre-right, with some claiming he does not reflect "the rural France we love".

AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing allies have launched a full-frontal assault on his potential -- but undeclared -- rival in next year's presidential election, IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn's stint at the helm of the International Monetary Fund in Washington does not officially end until September 2012, several months after the scheduled date of France's vote.

             
But the French political world is buzzing with speculation that the man popularly known here as DSK will bring a premature end to his tenure and throw his hat in the ring.
             
And opinion polls suggested he would win the vote if he runs.
             
The rumours had been doing the media rounds for some time, but they intensified last week when his high-profile journalist wife told a magazine that she didn't want her 61-year-old spouse to do another term at the IMF.
             
The speculation has infuriated Sarkozy's UMP party.
             
In recent days, its leading lights have launched virulent attacks on Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist former finance minister whom, ironically, Sarkozy backed to become IMF chief.
             
They dismissed the silver-haired IMF boss as a rich "champagne socialist," a man who has been away too long to still be in touch with France, and a cosmopolitan type who is not "the image of... the France we love."
             
It was that last charge, by the leader of the UMP in parliament Christian Jacob, that most angered Strauss-Kahn's Socialist allies, who saw in it veiled anti-Semitism.
             
Socialist deputy Pierre Moscovici said it "resembles a little the rhetoric of the far-right between the two world wars" who used such terms to attack French Jewish Socialists.
             
"The right is starting to plant mines," said political analyst Stephane Rozes.
             
"This is a warning to DSK to let him know that the battle will be bitter, that anything goes, and to make him think hard before he makes his decision," he said.
             
Observers say the right will not hesitate to use Strauss-Kahn's private life as a weapon against him. In 2008 he caused a stir at the IMF when it emerged he had had an affair with an economist working there.
             
Strauss-Kahn's allies say the ferocity of the attacks show that the IMF chief is the Socialist candidate the right fears the most.
              
"Now we know that they will use the most ignoble of methods to retain power," said deputy Jean-Marie Le Guen.
             
Rozes, the political analyst, said the fact that Sarkozy pushed for Strauss-Kahn to head the IMF makes it awkward for the right to attack him on economic grounds.
             
Sarkozy's choice has allowed DSK to strut the world stage since 2007 and make the headlines during the financial crisis and in Europe when the IMF stepped in to bail out debt-laden Greece and Ireland.
             
Strauss-Kahn, who is fluent in English and German, won respect in European circles during his tenure as French finance minister from 1997 to 1999, and has built up a reputation as a business-friendly socialist.
             
But even if Strauss-Kahn does decide to stand, he will still have to compete with other Socialists in the party's US-style "primaries" in October that will pick the presidential candidate.
             
Sarkozy's Socialist rival in the 2007 presidential polls, Segolene Royal, has already announced she will contend for her party's nomination.
             
Sarkozy himself has hinted that he will stand for a second term but has not formally declared he will be a candidate.

 

Date created : 2011-02-15

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