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The Strauss Kahn Affair

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN. PHOTO: BIXINTX.FLICKR

The beginning of the end of “L’ Affaire DSK” has started. The legal procedures against him are more or less over, but the media coverage is not. His part in the presidential election this spring, along with his future in French politics is yet to be determined.

The rape accusation towards the former IMF head was dismissed in August and Dominique Strauss Kahn was allowed to leave New York, this time with far more dignity than when he was dragged off an outgoing plane by the police in May. Finally back in Paris, the allegations concerning Strauss Kahn is debated almost daily. The dual topic of DSK includes the claimed assaults by both the New York hotel maid and the French journalist Tristane Banon, as well as how the politics of France will change without him, that is if he is forced to leave at all. Strauss Kahn’s own opinion of some of these matters was announced in an exclusive TV interview on the 18th of September. He made a moral fault, and is not proud of it, but the prosecution against him in New York is withdrawn. This was about all that Dominique Strauss Kahn would say in the FT1 interview regarding the events on the 14th of May.  A “moral fault” of the kind that made a New York City hotel maid accuse Strauss Kahn of rape, which impacted the European economy as the crisis-solving IMF head was the accused. In addition, it disturbed French politics, with presidential election being only a year away. Strauss Kahn states that there was no violence in his encounter with the hotel worker, and no aggression whatsoever. This is also what he said regarding Banon’s accusation, who claims Strauss Kahn tried to rape her during a private interview in 2003. The French authorities are currently investigating the case, and recently arranged a confrontation between Banon and Strauss Kahn, where the latter described Banon’s version of the story as imaginative and entirely untruthful according to le Monde.

L’ASSEMBLEE NATIONALE, FRANCE. PHOTO: DAVID REVERCHON FLICKR

 

Strauss Kahn claimed that the whole “hotel affair” was some kind of conspiracy against him; a setup to ruin his career. According to an opinion poll made by the newspaper le Monde, 47 % of the socialist party’s supporters believe this statement to be true. Just 6 month ago he was thought to be the only possible candidate to be able to overrun Sarkozy, with great economical knowledge and an international reputation. A reputation now gravely damaged.

The unique political experience Strauss Kahn is considered to have makes his future even more uncertain. Reporters from the New York Times consider it possible that he might be brought in to the government as a minister again, despite his being barred from running for the presidency this spring. Thierry Gilles, lecturer at Lund University, believes that this might happen, especially as previously convicted persons has been ministers in the French government before, and yet there is no sentence against him. Strauss Kahn’s age might also be a problem. Already past 60, he will be an old man when the next presidential election is held in 2017. Of course this affair has damaged his reputation gravely, but there is still a small group pushing for his candidacy this spring. The opinion in five years time is hard to predict, and will likely depend on the decision of the court in the Tristane Banon case, as well as the political climate at the time.

Thierry Gilles hopes that the attitude towards women among French politicians and others will be affected by the DSK case. The fact that the justice did not conclude that he was innocent in the case of Banon allowed her to claim a “first victory”, and might perhaps urge more women in the country to speak up against this kind of treatment. This is the intention of Banon; she claims that the focus should be on the situation, not a private fight against Strauss Kahn. It is not unusual that women are treated insolently by male colleagues at work. The female parliamentarians of France took part in a survey which showed it was very common that women working in parliament were sexually harassed at work.  These kinds of abuses are probably also present outside ofl’Assemblée nationale. The international scandal resulting from the arrest of Dominique Strauss Kahn might stir up change in the willingness of assaulted women to speak up against it. It might also affect the attitudes and action of men in power, appreciating their position and reputation more than unlimited access to the bodies of their female colleagues. 

JULIA TANNDAL

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