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Strauss-Kahn was set up, French say

Text by Joseph BAMAT , Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2011-05-18

When news broke that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on criminal sex charges, theories that the IMF chief had been set up began circulating in France.

In the immediate aftermath of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s dramatic arrest, the majority of French people were inclined to believe that the managing director of the International Monetary Fund was the victim of a conspiracy, an opinion poll revealed on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by French polling agency CSA after New York City police charged Strauss-Kahn with sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel maid in a luxury hotel, found that 57 percent of people interviewed thought he was set up. Just 32 percent of people thought he was not the victim of a plot and a further 11 percent had no opinion.

The poll, published by the free daily 20 Minutes, was conducted in France on Monday, before New York judge Melissa Jackson denied Strauss-Kahn bail and ordered him to remain in custody, the newspaper said.

The poll echoed the scepticism expressed by many French politicians and analysts in the press. On Monday Michel Wieviorka, a French sociologist and expert on France’s political left said that “everyone’s first reaction” had been one of “utter disbelief.”

Members of Strauss-Kahn’s entourage also contributed to the conspiracy theories circulating in the news. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, a Socialist Party member and a close aide to Strauss-Kahn, was quick to describe the incident as a plot to scupper the IMF chief's chance of winning next year's presidential election. “He was warned that there would be ‘nuclear war’ as soon as he got near to the presidency,” Cambadélis told journalists on Monday.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known in France as DSK for his initials, was widely expected to join the race for next year’s presidential election. According to opinion polls and a growing number of analysts, he was the clear frontrunner of the 2012 vote.

“Disbelief and conspiracy theories are the result of anguish,” explained Jérome Jamin, a Belgian writer and author of L'imaginaire du complot, a book on the fantasies behind conspiracy theories. “When we are confronted with something as incredible as the arrest of the boss of the IMF, which turns international and national agendas upside down, the reaction is to reject the official explanation.”

According to Jamin, the bigger an apparent anomaly or scandal is, the less likely people are ready to accept ordinary explanations.

“In general, conspiracy theories arise after an event with global consequences, or around a well-known public figure. The September 11 attacks are an example of an event that changes the course of history. The death of Marylin Monroe belongs to the second category. In Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s case, both conditions are present,” said Jamin.

In the days that have followed the CSA survey, a bedraggled Strauss-Kahn has appeared in court alongside his lawyer. Initial shock has given way to the assumption that a long and tedious legal battle lies ahead.

Other elements may already be changing public opinion. The Socialist Party has made it clear it is not putting its plan to hold primaries on hold. The French media, eager to meet the public’s demand for news about the accused, have revisited claims by Hungarian economist Piroska Nagy, who in 2008 said she was pressured into an affair by Strauss-Kahn while working at the IMF.

And in what will be a potential blow to Strauss-Kahn’s credibility before a jury, a young French novelist came forward this week with allegations that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002.


Date created : 2011-05-18


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