The arrest of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape at an upscale New York City hotel was already having immediate policy reverberations on Sunday and threw into question the future of France’s leadership, according to published reports.
After Strauss-Kahn was arrested early Sunday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to cancel a planned meeting in Berlin on Sunday on the topic of euro zone debt because the IMF was not prepared to send a replacement for him to the meeting, Reuters reported. He will be replaced at a scheduled meeting today in Brussels, according to the IMF.
Reuters also reported on Sunday that in the interim, the IMF had appointed John Lipsky, the organization’s No. 2, to step in as acting managing director.
Other news accounts stressed that there could be much longer-term policy dilemmas for France’s political future resulting from Strauss-Kahn’s arrest.
The 62-year old IMF leader had been widely expected to announce this summer his plans to run for president of France on the Socialist ticket, The New York Times reported Sunday. Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, has won acclaim for his handling of the IMF and had been considered a front-runner who could oust France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2012, the Times said.
Strauss-Kahn has survived at the helm of the IMF despite having had an affair with an economist at the bank who was a subordinate in 2008. Strauss-Kahn, who is married, was found to have shown poor judgment in the handling of the affair, but managed to keep his job after issuing an apology to his employees and to his wife, the Times said.
According to the Times, Strauss-Kahn was apprehended in New York, about to take off on an Air France flight to Paris when two Port Authority detectives yanked him off the plane.
He was arrested “on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year-old chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday” said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the Port Authority’s department’s chief spokesman, according to the Times.
Strauss-Kahn planned to plead not guilty at his Sunday afternoon arraignment, according to his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman. But regardless of whether the charges hold up, his political career looks endangered, Reuters reported. The story said that a Harris opinion poll published in Sunday's edition of Le Parisien daily, and conducted before news of the arrest broke, found that a 41 percent plurality of respondents hoped Strauss-Kahn would be the Socialist candidate.
But the Reuters account also quoted several people in France predicting the arrest would doom Strauss-Kahn’s career.
"He's definitely crashed off the road as far as the Socialist primary and the presidency are concerned," Philippe Martinat, who published a book last year on Strauss-Kahn and Sarkozy's rivalry, told Reuters television, the story said.