Arrest Boosts French Socialist Candidates PDF Imprimir E-mail

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest has lifted the prospects of rival presidential candidates in France's Socialist Party, but they face a struggle to win over voters.

The arrest has sparked scrambling among Socialist Party power brokers at a time when President Nicolas Sarkozy's poor approval ratings have given the Socialists their best opportunity in years to win the presidency. But the party now finds itself without any obvious candidate.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62 years old, hadn't declared his intention to seek the Socialists' nomination, but he was widely expected to do so within weeks and was looked upon by party members as the savior of a party that has produced only one French president in the half-century history of France's Fifth Republic.

On Monday, party chiefs clung to the hope that he would still be able to represent them despite the sexual-assault case brought against the International Monetary Fund chief in New York.

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, a Socialist lawmaker speaking at party headquarters in Paris, said reports on the case contained "many contradictions." He added: "We can't believe he's guilty."

Mr. Strauss-Kahn was arraigned Monday on charges of attempted rape, criminal sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment of a maid in the New York City hotel where he was staying. He was ordered held without bail. His lawyer said Mr. Strauss-Kahn plans to plead not guilty.

French Socialists missed the 1990s trend for left-of-center parties—such as the British Labour Party and Germany's Social Democrats—to adopt versions of the small-government, pro-market economics they had in the past opposed. Instead, a Socialist government in France in 2000 reduced the standard workweek to 35 hours from 39, making workers grateful but businesses uncompetitive.

Last month, the party announced a policy platform whose centerpiece was a program to create 300,000 jobs by raising certain taxes. It also proposed raising the minimum salary—something economists say would hurt French business, as labor costs in France have already overtaken those of neighbor Germany.

The three leading Socialists now vying for the party's nomination are all party insiders, who suffer from an awkward combination of age and inexperience.

Two are former partners: François Hollande and Ségolène Royal, who had four children together before separating in 2007. Mr. Hollande is the youngest at 56, but has never held a cabinet position, instead holding party posts over the years, including serving as secretary-general between 1997 and 2008.

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