He was once the big beast in French politics and a prominent international statesman, a man so powerful and renowned he was known by his initials alone: DSK.
Today, almost nine months on from his U.S. arrest and trial-by-media, Dominique Strauss-Kahn still cuts an imposing figure; one gifted with a great intellect and undoubtedly even greater charisma. However, the past year has left an indelible mark upon him both physically, emotionally, and his reputation is, arguably deservedly, in tatters.
The mysterious encounter with a maid in an expensive New York City hotel is still murky, the events unclear and the motivations of both parties opaque. What is certain, is that this episode drew into sharp question the very reputation of a man quasi-revered by the French socialist party; of a man who seemed to be near untouchable in his quest for ultimate power in France, and who was brought to book in a grimy NYPD police station.
His story shows how very mortal we can all be if we fly, like Icarus, too close to the sun.
So, why re-hash old news, you might ask? Have the facts not been over-scrutinised? Have all parties not been endlessly examined by over keen and frenzied media observers? In the end, you might well ask, does all this really matter?
The answer is simple: yes, it does.
It is now becoming evident that the current frontrunner in the French presidential election, François Hollande, far from winning based on popularity, vision or competence, is winning merely because he is not Nicolas Sarkozy. This is worrying, as it brings into sharp focus the fact that France could soon be led by a man who has no real experience handling international financial policies or any financial or economic acumen. These are qualities undeniably needed in this time of recession, austerity, and financial crisis.
Hollande recently “declared war on the world of finance," stating that: “... finance must be in the service of the economy to create wealth and not to enrich itself on the real economy.” Backing this up with a raft of potential policies, Hollande is arguing for a 75% tax in incomes over $1.3 million a year alongside other policies designed to reign in financial services. Whilst such policies are not unusual for socialist candidates, it does demonstrate a lack of financial nous.
Currently, the EU is in financial turmoil, with Greece having been given a second record-busting bailout but in all likelihood needing another before 2015. Now is not the time for financial neophytes to be ushered into power in one of the key euro zone countries. Equally, with policies such as the ones outlined above, Hollande risks damaging France’s future competitiveness for the sake of empty, populist rhetoric.
Many French voters must rue the loss of so talented an economist as Strauss-Kahn, his intellectual firepower and considerable experience, as well as his definite ability to navigate the French economy through the difficult times ahead.
Sarkozy must be rubbing his hands with glee that his own defeat, certain at the hands of DSK, is now open to question. Hollande meanwhile must be relishing being free from DSK's long shadow, able to pontificate on economic ersatz policies and produce electoral fluff.
Whatever his actions, his past or his personal life; it is very clear that DSK is greatly missed in an election year when both candidates are seemingly unable to measure up to the task at hand. Namely ensuring France does not falter on the road to economic recovery.
In short, DSK may be the best president the French never had.
Photo Credit: bixintx