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Last updated: July 1, 2011 4:10 pm
French Socialists on Friday revived hopes of a presidential bid by Dominique Strauss-Kahn after doubts emerged over allegations that the former International Monetary Fund chief assaulted a New York chambermaid.
Martine Aubry, the leader of opposition Socialist Party, expressed her “immense joy” at news that US prosecutors were concerned about the credibility of the alleged victim.
Lawyers for Mr Strauss-Kahn applied to have his bail conditions removed at an unscheduled court appearance in New York on Friday. A person familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press that the Manhattan district attorney’s office would agree to release him without bail.
Ahead of the court appearance, the New York Times on Thursday said the case against Mr Strauss-Kahn was “on the verge of collapse”, citing unnamed law enforcement officials who said the maid’s credibility and the consistency of her testimony were in doubt.
Ms Aubry this week declared her bid for the Socialist nomination to run against Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, in next year’s presidential race, but was widely seen to have been a reluctant candidate.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, with whom she had struck a deal not to run if he chose to do so, had consistently polled as the Socialist most likely to defeat Mr Sarkozy until the charges were laid on May 14.
Jack Lang, the former culture minister, said that if charges were dropped against Mr Strauss-Kahn, who just a few months ago was the left’s favourite to defeat Mr Sarkozy in next year’s presidential election, the former IMF boss still had a part to play in the left’s electoral challenge.
“It is clear that if he wants to, Dominique must come to France and play a major political role,” Mr Lang said on BFM radio. “Whatever his status, his presence with us would be decisive for our success in [next year’s] presidential election.”
Some Socialist party members called for the primary race to be suspended until Mr Strauss-Kahn’s fate became clearer. Candidates have until July 14 to lodge their bids with a vote expected on October 16.
Jean-Marie Le Guen, Socialist deputy for Paris, denounced those who had bet on Mr Strauss-Kahn’s “political death” and said he would be rehabilitated. Mr Strauss-Kahn would soon be “free and able to look French people in the eyes”.
Even those outside the Socialist camp were on Friday speculating that his political return was not impossible.
Jean-Louis Borloo, the centrist who has taken his party out of the ruling UMP coalition and is threatening to run against Mr Sarkozy, said in an interview on Radio Classique: “What is to stop him from coming back if he is strong enough and wants to? I don’t know what he is feeling but I don’t see what would stop him.”
However, Lionel Jospin, former prime minister, said it was too early to draw political conclusions from the latest development.
Nonetheless he described the news as “a thunderbolt” and said that if the charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn were eventually dropped the former IMF boss would have been “thrown to the wolves by the system”.
François Hollande, the former party leader who had declared his bid for the Socialist nomination well before Mr Strauss-Kahn’s troubles, said he hoped the court appearance today would result in all charges being dropped against his political adversary.
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